By Bilal Sabri
IHC reserves judgment in Election Act 2017 case
ISLAMABAD: In a rather mysterious development, the religious status of thousands of Muslims was changed to ‘Ahmadis’ by the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) on Wednesday.
NADRA officials, meanwhile, confided in Pakistan Today that the authority had not changed the religious status of any Muslim to Ahmadi, adding that it might have been corrected as mentioned and maintained by the Ahmadi people in oaths.
“Earlier, there was no criterion. Ahmadis used to submit an affidavit in which they state that due to NADRA’s mistake their religious status was mentioned as Muslim, which is incorrect and they wanted to rectify it. Upon which, the authority entertained their applications and ‘corrected’ their religious status,” the officials added.
They said that NADRA had now recommended the Islamabad High Court (IHC) to make court decree mandatory for change and correction of the religious status.
However, Kamran Amjad Kayani, an IHC advocate, on March 1 sent a legal notice to the NADRA chairman, seeking an explanation as to how the subordinate staff of the national database changed the religious status of people from Muslim to non-Muslim (Ahmadi) without obtaining the court decree, which was ‘gross misconduct on the part of NADRA management’.
“You have to explain your position in this regard within seven days after the receipt of this legal notice; otherwise, the undersigned has the right to approach the court of law for the initiation of the criminal proceedings, as well as the constitutional jurisdiction of the IHC,” read the legal notice available with Pakistan Today.
It is pertinent to mention here that the IHC had earlier sought the population data of Ahmadis living in Pakistan since 1947.
According to the Deputy Attorney General (DAG) Arshad Mehmood Kayani, the data of the recently concluded census was being compiled and might be finalised by the end of April 2018. However, the Census 1998 figures were provided to the court, according to which the population of Ahmadis was 286,212.
Justice Siddiqui had noted that the figure showed a huge difference from the data earlier provided by NADRA.
The database authority had informed the court that just over 167,000 Ahmadis were registered in Pakistan and 10,205 changed their religious status from Muslim to Ahmadi.
IHC on Wednesday reserved its verdict in the case pertaining to the controversial change in the Khatam-e-Nabuwat clause of the Election Act, 2017.
In October, the government’s move to “simplify” a provision in the election form had led to a three-week crippling sit-in in the federal capital and the subsequent resignation of the federal law minister.
Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui reserved the verdict for Friday after hearing the arguments from the petitioner and federation, as well as several scholars and lawyers, who had rendered their assistance in the case as amicus curiae (friend of court).
It merits mentioning here that the court had been hearing the petition on a day-to-day basis since February 20. Petitioner Maulana Allah Wasaya’s counsel Hafiz Arafat had maintained that the act relating to the declaration was against Article 8 and 227 of the Constitution, and resulted in creating a serious law and order situation across the country.
The major developments during the course of hearings included the government’s submission of report of a committee led by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Senator Raja Zafarul Haq on the controversy.
On Wednesday, Deputy Attorney General Arshad Mehmood Kayani submitted the census data of 1981, 1998 and tentative data of 2017. He also submitted the travel history of almost 6,000 persons, who obtained fresh passports after changing religious status from Muslim to Ahmadi.
Almost all the amicus curiae appraised the court that concealing real faith was a crime, and act of cheating and fraud with the state.
The amici curiae included professor Dr Hafiz Hassan Madni from the Institute of Islamic Studies at University of Punjab in Lahore; Dr Mohsin Naqvi, ex-Council of Islamic Ideology (COII) member; Professor Dr Sahibzada Sajidur Rehman member COII; and Mufti Muhammad Hussain Khalil Khel from Karachi as amicus to render their assistance on the proposed questions.
Among the lawyers, Akram Sheikh, Dr Aslam Khaki and Dr Babar Awan provided assistance to the court in connection with the amendment in the Election Act, 2017, which had led to a sit-in in the capital.