The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday ordered to reverse in the Elections Act 2017 all amendments in sections pertaining to the Khatm-i-Nabuwwat oath.
IHC Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui was hearing a petition submitted by Tehreek-i-Khatm-i-Nabuwwat supporter Allah Wasaya against a controversial amendment to the Khatm-i-Nabuwwat oath in the law ─ which had earlier been deemed a 'clerical error' and subsequently rectified.
Despite the correction, daily life in the capital over the past week was disrupted by protesters belonging to religious parties, including the Tehreek-i-Khatm-i-Nabuwwat, Tehreek-e-Labaik Yah Rasool Allah Pakistan (TLY) and the Sunni Tehreek Pakistan (ST), calling for the sacking of Law Minister Zahid Hamid and strict action against those responsible for the error.
Wasaya in his petition called for all changes to sections pertaining to the Khatm-i-Nabuwwat oath to be reversed, and for strict action to be taken against those who had a hand in the error.
The deputy attorney general opposed the move, warning that as election time was nearly here, further changes to the act would cause chaos.
Wasaya also asked the government setup a database of government employees belonging to the Ahmadi faith.
Justice Siddiqui subsequently ordered the changes to the oath be reversed as the Khatm-i-Nabuwwat issue could not be ignored, and asked for the report compiled by a PML-N committee probing the issue to be submitted to court.
The judge also asked the federal government to submit a reply regarding the request for a database within 14 days.
Earlier in October, copies of the Elections Act 2017 showing changes to certain parts of the law began circulating on social media, prompting lawmakers to take notice of a change in wordings on Form-A, which is submitted at the time of election by candidates, which turned it into a declaration form instead of an affidavit, which puts a candidate under oath.
Through the Elections Act 2017, the words in Form-A “I solemnly swear” had been replaced with “I believe” in a clause relating to a candidate's belief in the finality of the prophethood of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and it had been made not applicable to non-Muslim candidates.
Sections 7B and 7C of The Conduct of General Elections Order, 2002, which relate to the status of Ahmedis, had also been omitted from Elections Act 2017.
Section 7B says that the status of Ahmedis remains as stated in the Constitution of Pakistan, while section 7C states that if an enrolled voter's belief in the finality of Prophet Muhammad's (PBUH) prophethood is contended, they shall have to sign a declaration stating so, failing which their "name shall be deleted from the joint electoral rolls and added to a supplementary list of voters in the same electoral area as non-Muslim."
Certain political parties have also taken issue with the amended Election Act 2017, which was bulldozed through the Lower House of Parliament despite strong protests from opposition lawmakers as it paved the way for ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif to be re-elected as PML-N head due to an amendment that allowed politicians disqualified from holding public office to head a political party.