The Hudood Law was intended to implement Islamic Shari'a law, by enforcing punishments mentioned in the Quran and sunnah for Zina (extramarital sex), Qazf (false accusation of zina), Offence Against Property (theft), and Prohibition (the drinking of alcohol).
The ordinance has been criticized as leading to "hundreds of incidents where a woman subjected to rape, or even gang rape, was eventually accused of Zina" and incarcerated, and defended as punishment ordained by God and victim of "extremely unjust propaganda".
The maximum punishments for drinking alcohol is 80 lashes. Theft carries a maximum punishment of amputation of the right hand.
Stories of great personal suffering by women who have claimed to be raped have appeared in the press in the years following the passing of the Hudood ordinances.
The evidence of guilt was there for all to see: a newborn baby in the arms of its mother, a village woman named Zafran Bibi. Her crime: she had been raped. Her sentence: death by stoning. Now Ms. Zafran, who is about 26, is in solitary confinement in a death-row cell ...
Thumping a fat red statute book, the white-bearded judge who convicted her, Anwar Ali Khan, said he had simply followed the letter of the Koran-based law, known as hudood, that mandates punishments.
"The illegitimate child is not disowned by her and therefore is proof of zina," he said, referring to laws that forbid any sexual contact outside marriage. Furthermore, he said, in accusing her brother-in-law of raping her, Ms. Zafran had confessed to her crime.
However, Mufti Taqi Usmani, an instrumental figure in making the law, has stated
If anyone says that she was punished because of Qazaf (false accusation of rape) then Qazaf Ordinance, Clause no. 3, Exemption no. 2 clearly states that if someone approaches the legal authorities with a rape complaint, she cannot be punished in case she is unable to present 4 witnesses. No court of law can be in its right mind to award such a punishment.
A number of international, Islamic and Pakistani human rights organizations campaign for the law's repeal. Some have argued that it goes beyond what is required by Shari'a. They are opposed by culturally conservative religious parties, who accuse them of departing from Islamic values and support only changes which accord with their own interpretation of Shari'a. The governments of Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif both set up commissions to investigate the Hudood Ordinance. Both commissions recommended amending certain aspects of the law, but neither government followed through.
The reforms have come under considerable opposition from Islamist groups in Pakistan, who insist that law should stay in Sharia form but amended. Some Islamists have fiercely criticised the laws. Other legal experts have claimed that the original law was not so unbalanced as its opponents claim or that the reforms will be impossible to enforce.