ISLAMABAD - The Islamabad High Court Wednesday directed the government to publish Raja Zafarul Haq report about controversial amendments in Khatm-e-Nabuwat affidavit in Election Act 2017.

A single bench of IHC comprising Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui issued these directions in a detailed verdict in a case regarding controversial amendments made to the Khatm-i-Nabuwwat oath in the Elections Act 2017 last year.

Justice Siddiqui, in his 172-page verdict, observed members of the Parliament failed to understand the sensitivity of the issue. He added the Parliament had overlooked the mistake but later restored the original affidavit. The key findings of the report have also been made part of the judgment.

He noted that the court “in the larger interests of the country” is avoiding disclosing the names of many who held high positions in the bureaucracy, judiciary, military, naval, and air forces and other sensitive and important institutions while hiding their real religious identities as part of the Ahmadi community as it would “bring a bad taste”, adding the practice “has to be brought to a halt”.

It added: “Every citizen of the country has [the] right to know that the persons holding the key posts belong to which religious community, the persons scheming syllabus for their children profess what religious beliefs, the persons formulating their policies tend to hold their beloved Prophet (PBUH) in what esteem, the persons believed to be the ambassadors and representatives of their Islamic ideology… last but not the least, the defenders in whose hands the defence of Islamic Republic of Pakistan rests belongs to which religion? This was the responsibility of the State, and the Federal Government in particular, but it has badly failed to discharge it.”

Regarding the change in the affidavit related to the Khatm-i-Nabuwwat oath, the court noted: “it is for the Parliament which can explain the real intent but prima facie it appears that a deliberate and motivated effort was made by the draftsmen of the bill to bring Qadianis in the loop of majority in order to diminish their separate identity as non-Muslims. I observe with great concern that all the members of the National Assembly as also the Senators (without distinction of parties) failed to identify the motive, lacuna and an effort to frustrate constitutional amendment through simple enactment which is not permissible under the law.”

However, soon after it was pointed out, the Parliament, in its collective wisdom and understanding, made it confirm to the requirements of the Constitution.

The court verdict appreciated Senator Raja Zafarul Haq “for his legal acumen as a lawyer and experienced legislator as well, who by chairing the committee made a very commendable report. Moreover, with his honesty and wisdom he handled all the points very comprehensively, which annulled all the negative impressions.”

The verdict said that it is mandatory for the State to safeguard the sentiments and religious beliefs and also protect the rights of minority according to the religion of the State of Pakistan “Islam” declared by the Constitution of Pakistan. Citing Raja Zafarul Haq report, the court pointed out that the then law minister Zahid Hamid being chairman of the committee that prepared the Elections Act 2017 admitted his failure to overlook the mistake of draftsman.

Justice Siddiqui directed that an affidavit must be sworn by applicants of the computerized national identity card (CNIC), passport, birth certificate, electoral rolls, and appointment in government and semi-government institutions especially the judiciary, armed forces and civil services.

The court held that appointment of non-Muslims to constitutional posts is against organic law and rituals. Non-Muslims do not qualify to be elected to certain constitutional offices. It added that there are seats reserved for non-Muslims (minorities) in most institutions, including Parliament.

“When any member of the minority group conceals his/her religion and belief through fraudulent means... is actually an open defiance to the words and spirit of the Constitution,” the judge said. To prevent this disobedience, the state must take immediate measures, he declared that a citizen doing so would betray the state, resulting in exploitation of the Constitution.

The IHC judge observed that minorities residing in Pakistan held a separate identification in reference to their names “but one of the minorities did not hold a distinct identification due to their names and general attire, according to the Constitution.” “These matters demand such sensitivity and unity,” he stated.

“Due to their names they can easily mask their belief and become part of Muslim majority,” he added saying, “[and] they can gain access to dignified and sensitive posts resulting in accumulation of all benefits.”

The bench ruled that Parliament may make necessary legislation and amendments to the existing laws to ensure that all the terms specifically used for ‘Islam’ and ‘Muslims’ were not used by the persons belonging to any of the minorities for hiding their real identity or for any other purpose.

“The matter of absolute and unqualified finality of Prophethood of Muhammad (PBUH), the last of the Prophets, is the nucleus of our religion,” the order stated.

It asked NADRA to fix a time-frame for citizens who intended to make corrections or changes to their existing particulars, especially religion. The court also advised all the institutions to engage Muslim teachers for teaching Islamiat/Deenyat as a subject.

The court also directed the government to take immediate steps to conduct an inquiry concerning the “alarming and visible difference” in the population record of the Ahmadi community available with NADRA and figures collected through recent census.

“It is binding on the state to take care of the rights, feelings and religious beliefs of the Muslim Ummah and to also ensure the protection of rights of minorities in the light of teachings of Islam being the religion declared by the Constitution of the country,” Justice Siddiqui stated.

Justice Siddiqui commended Senator Raja Zafarul Haq for authoring the report on the change of the declaration and observed that Parliament handled this issue with utmost care and wisdom.

“It is painful that despite pointation the majority of the parliamentarians failed to give due deference and importance to this delicate issue which is evident from proceedings of Senate’s 267th Session held on Friday, the 22nd September, 2017. As this matter requires a detailed scrutiny, therefore, it is difficult for this Court to single out any person, party or group, however, the Zafar-ul-Haq Report is relevant which, as has been stated herein, has been appended herewith as Annex-A and this Court directs to make it public,” said the verdict.