Abstract

Building on current research regarding constitutional migration, this article shows how constitutional provisions protecting religious freedom (“subject to public order”) arrived in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, not via colonial British or traditional Islamic sources—both explicitly rejected—but via deliberate constitutional borrowing from “anti-colonial” precursors in Ireland and, especially, India. Drawing on Ernesto Laclau's notion of “empty signifiers,” the article highlights the shifting political circumstances that transformed the meaning of Pakistan's borrowed constitutional provisions. Even as core texts guaranteeing an individual's right to peaceful religious practice were imported, political, legal, and conceptual modulations ensured that specific forms of peaceful religious practice were refashioned as a source of religious provocation and, therein, public disorder. Far from protecting religious freedom, this repurposing of imported constitutional clauses tied to “the politics of public order” underpinned the formal legal restriction of an otherwise explicit right.

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