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Khan attempts to reignite controversy over amendment to Khatm-i-Nabuwwat oath

Updated February 22, 2018

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PTI Chief Imran Khan addressing his supporters. — Screengrab
PTI Chief Imran Khan addressing his supporters. — Screengrab

The day after his arch-rival — the erstwhile chief of the PML-N, Nawaz Sharif — was ousted from the party's presidency, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan asked why an enquiry report on a controversial amendment made to an oath in the Elections Act 2017 had not been released yet.

The PTI had been among the 17 petitioners who had challenged the Elections Act 2017 in the SC last year. The court yesterday ruled that Sections 203 and 232 of the Elections Act 2017 — which had paved the way for former prime minister Nawaz Sharif to resume his position as party chief despite being disqualified by the Supreme Court (SC) in the landmark Panama Papers case — were subject to the restrictions placed on lawmakers under Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution.

The verdict resulted in the immediate ouster of Sharif and the overturning of all decisions he had taken in his official capacity as PML-N chief.

Khan today attempted to bring focus back on the 'other' controversy ignited by the law: the Khatm-i-Nabuwwat oath that lawmakers are required to take.

Last year, several irate lawmakers had pointed out that the wordings of Form-A — submitted at the time of election by candidates — had been changed so that it had been turned into a 'declaration' instead of an affidavit, which puts a candidate under oath.

More specifically, the phrase “I solemnly swear” in Form-A had been replaced with “I believe” in a clause relating to a candidate's declaration of belief in the finality of the prophethood of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and the clause had also been made 'not applicable' to non-Muslim candidates.

Following objections from the opposition, the ruling PML-N had restored the oath back to its original form and admitted that the amendment was a "clerical error". An inquiry committee headed by Senator Raja Zafarul Haq also investigated who was responsible for the changes. The committee, however, has since refused to make the report of its findings public.

The amendment, even after it was scrapped, had sparked protests by religious parties last year, notably the Tehreek-i-Khatm-i-Nabuwwat, Tehreek-i-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah (TLY) and the Sunni Tehreek Pakistan (ST), who had camped out at the Faizabad Interchange in November for more than 20 days, interrupting daily life in Islamabad.

The protesters had staged almost a month-long sit-in at the Faizabad Interchange to demand the resignation of then law minister Zahid Hamid and strict action against those behind the amendment to the oath in question.

Addressing his supporters at a function today, Imran claimed that the PML-N had amended the Elections Act "secretly" and then lied about it.

Once they were caught, however, the ruling party admitted they had made a mistake and formed a committee to probe the matter, the PTI chief said.

"Why is it that the committee has not yet released its findings until now, even though it should have been able to find out who was responsible within 48 days?" Khan asked.

"Why did they [the PML-N] decide to change the oath? I'll tell you why: they wanted to please a big lobby that is sitting abroad."

He also accused Nawaz of holding a secret meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the 2014 Saarc summit in Kathmandu. The reason behind keeping the meeting a secret, Khan claimed, was that Nawaz did not want the army to know about it.

He quoted a book by Indian journalist Barkha Dutt as proof.

"Which country's prime minister does that?" he asked.

Claiming that a small, elite group of people had "taken over Pakistan", Khain complained that the public was struggling to make ends meet while the rich were consuming the country's resources.

Rounding off his accusation-laden speech, he promised to put an end to the exploitation of the poor and build orphanages, schools and grounds for the public amid cheers of: "Wazir-e-Azam Imran Khan!".