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What role did religion play in Pakistan's governance post-1980?

Post-1980, religion played a significant role in Pakistan's governance, shaping its laws, politics, and societal norms.

In the 1980s, Pakistan underwent a significant shift towards Islamisation under the military dictatorship of General Zia-ul-Haq. This was a strategic move to legitimise his rule and gain support from religious groups. Zia introduced the controversial Hudood Ordinances in 1979, which were Islamic laws covering theft, adultery, and consumption of alcohol. These laws were criticised for being discriminatory, particularly against women, and for their harsh punishments.

Religion also played a role in the political sphere. Zia used Islam as a tool to suppress political opposition, arguing that opposition to his rule was tantamount to opposition to Islam. This led to the marginalisation of secular and leftist political groups. Furthermore, religious parties, although they did not gain significant electoral success, wielded considerable influence in shaping public discourse and policy.

The education system was another area where the impact of religion was felt. Zia introduced changes to the curriculum to reflect a more Islamic perspective, with a focus on religious studies. This has been criticised for promoting a narrow, sectarian view of Islam and for fostering intolerance towards religious minorities.

Religion also influenced Pakistan's foreign policy. The country's support for the Afghan Mujahideen in the 1980s was partly driven by religious solidarity with fellow Muslims. This policy had long-term implications, contributing to the rise of religious extremism and militancy in the region.

In societal terms, the emphasis on religion led to increased conservatism and intolerance. Religious minorities, such as Christians and Hindus, faced discrimination and violence. Women's rights were also curtailed, with the enforcement of conservative dress codes and restrictions on their participation in public life.

In conclusion, religion has played a significant role in shaping Pakistan's governance post-1980. It has influenced laws, politics, education, foreign policy, and societal norms, often with controversial and divisive results.

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