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The Pakistan Federal Shariat Court, Section 4 of the Muslim Family Laws Ordinance, and the Orphaned Grandchild

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Section 4 of the Pakistan Muslim Family Laws Ordinance, 1961, dramatically altered the law of succession applicable to Muslims by granting to the orphaned grandchild(ren) the share that their deceased parent would have taken had s/he survived the propositus. The principle of representation incorporated in the Pakistani solution contrasts with the compulsory bequest relied upon by several Middle Eastern countries to deal with the same problem, although arguably representation more closely reflects the experience and expectations of the people of Pakistan. Nearly two decades later, the Federal Shariat Court was established and endowed with jurisdiction to declare a law contrary to "the Injunctions of Islam" and thus void. Some laws, however, were specifically exempted from the Court's jurisdiction; falling within this category is "Muslim Personal Law." A 1981 decision of the appellate Court (the Shariat Bench of the Supreme Court) held that the provisions of the Muslim Family Laws Ordinance were included within the phrase "Muslim Personal Law," and were thus outside the jurisdiction of the Federal Shariat Court. This position was reversed by another decision of the appellate Court in 1993, and the provisions of the Ordinance were immediately challenged on the basis of their alleged divergence from the "Injunctions of Islam." This essay reviews the provisions of section 4 of the Ordinance and examines the decision of the Shariat Court as regards this particular provision.


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