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The often-troubled relationship between religion and politics in Pakistan is the product of a complex history. Islam arrived in the Indian subcontinent in the eighth century, establishing itself as the predominant tradition over the next millennium. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries,...

Religion in the Pakistan Constitution

The current Pakistani Constitution endorses "democracy, freedom, equality, tolerance and social justice, as enunciated by Islam" a much more restricted guarantee of freedom compared to prior constitutions. This qualifier results in a careful legal balancing act for the government and for citizens. On the one hand, the President and Prime Minister are constitutionally required to be Muslim, and Article 227 states that all Pakistani laws must be in accordance with Islam. The Constitution also established a Council of Islamic Ideology to advise Parliament on Islamic law within the country as well as foreign policy issues. On the other hand, Article 20 formally grants citizens the right to propagate their religion and gives religious denominations the right to establish their own educational and theological institutions. A large portion of Christian schools were nationalized in 1972 but the majority of these schools were returned to Christian control in 1988. However, Christian theological seminaries have also been attacked in recent years, and Christian proselytism is severely restricted. Public government schools are allowed to teach religious classes, although student participation in these classes is not required. Article 21 declares that forced religious taxation for religious minorities is illegal - a liberal interpretation of the jizziya tax usually paid by religious minorities living in an Islamic state. The Pakistani Parliament is required to reserve ten seats for non-Muslims, but in practice, minority communities claim that government census records deliberately misrepresent their population numbers in order to diminish their representation in Parliament. According to the Constitution, non-Muslims are not required to follow Islamic laws and regulations including marriage, divorce and inheritance laws, but many Christians and Hindus face discrimination for not fasting during Ramadan and not celebrating major Muslim holidays. Muslims are defined in the second amendment as those who believe in the "absolute and unqualified finality" of the Prophet Muhammad, meaning most Shi’as, particularly the Ahmadis, are technically considered “non-Muslim.”