Under the Transplantation of Human Organs and Tissues Act 2010, buying and selling of human organs for transplants is prohibited in Pakistan, and donations from living donors are strictly restricted to blood relatives. In case of a donation to a non-relative, the law calls for strict evaluation of the case to determine if it is being done purely for altruistic reasons and no coercion or monetary benefits are involved. But despite the sentence for up to 10 years and a fine for up to one million for anyone involved in facilitating an illegal transplant, the business of illegal organ trade has attracted many because of its lucrative nature.

The other aspect of this problem is the fact that donating organs is considered unacceptable in Islam, so people turn to illegal markets. In 2015 when MNA Kishwer Zehra told colleagues that she has decided to donate her organs after death and will also be moving ‘The Transplantation of Human Organs and Tissues Bill’ to raise awareness about organ donation in Pakistan, MNA Moulvi Agha Muhammad, from JUI-F, objected to the bill and said organ donation has never been allowed in Islam. “Body organs belong to God and they should be buried along with the dead body,” he said. In contrast to this myopic view, Abdul Sattar Edhi, after his death, donated both his eyes. Now to say that what he did was not Islamic would be preposterous. It is inspiring that he did that, and set such a precedent.

Conservative opinion has to realise the pitfalls of its own argument. What of people who lose their limbs, to injury or disease? Are amputations also haram? We have to realise that modern medicine has progressed beyond the confines of society and religion. We live in times when organs can be grown. If man-made organs can save and prolong lives, does it not circumvent the assumption that all organs belong to God? The choice is obviously voluntary and must be given to people. Already, organ donation between family members is happening in Pakistan. What Islamic law separates donations between family members versus donation between strangers?

The hope is that people can be sympathetic to the suffering of others, and openly allow doctors to take their organs.