Senior lawyer and expert on law affairs Akram Shaikh on Friday told the Islamabad High Court (IHC) that a constitutional court has the authority to direct the government to legislate against those non-Muslims who purposely pretend to appear Muslim on paper when they are not, DawnNewsTV reported.

He was assisting the court during Friday's hearing of a petition filed by Maulana Allah Wasaya on the identification of alleged non-Muslims in government, semi-government and autonomous organisations who identify themselves as Muslims.

In his remarks, IHC's Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui reiterated that more than 10,000 people have changed their religious status from Muslim to Ahmadi in their Computerised National Identity Cards. He said a majority of these people had shown themselves as Muslims in a bid to have a government job and then changed their official religious status after retirement once they reached the age of 60.

Further citing a government report, he said that out of the total number of those who changed their status from Muslim to Ahmedi, more than 6,000 had left the country. The government had already been directed to produce their travel history, he added.

Akram Shaikh expressed his concerns over what he called revelations regarding Ahmadis in the government's report. "Ahmadis can't be allowed to exercise Islamic rituals," he said, adding that it could hurt the religious sentiments of Muslims.

Shaikh, however, said that Islam and the Constitution of Pakistan ensured the provision of rights to minorities. A separate religious identity of Ahmadis is essential for the safety of their religious rights as a minority, he added.

Submission of an affidavit on Khatm-i-Naboowat (finality of Prophethood of Hazrat Muhammad PBUH) should be made mandatory for issuance of a CNIC, he suggested.

He further said that "strict action should be taken against [those] Ahmadis who changed their religious status [from Muslim to Ahmadi]".

The IHC has been hearing the case on daily basis. Earlier, the court had directed the Federal Investigation Agency to submit the travel history of all those who had changed their religious status on CNICs.

The directive comes as Nadra submitted a report to the court, revealing that 10,205 people had changed their religious status from Muslim to Ahmedi. According to the report, a total of 167,473 Ahmadis are registered in the country.

In an earlier hearing, the director general of Nadra had told the court that a court's permission has now been made mandatory if someone wants to change their religious status on the CNIC.

Ahmadis were declared non-Muslims in Pakistan through a constitutional amendment in 1974 during the tenure of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. This measure was later followed with Gen Ziaul Haq making it a punishable offence for Ahmadis to call themselves Muslim or to refer to their faith as Islam.