Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui heard a petition against the controversial amendments in Khatm-e-Nabuwwat clause
ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has suspended applicability of the Elections Act, 2017, to the extent of Khatm-e-Nabuwat – the avowal of absolute and unqualified finality of the Prophet-hood of Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh).
The order, issued by the IHC judge Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui on Tuesday, came in response to a petition by Maulana Allah Wasaya, who had claimed the Elections Act, 2017 promulgated on October 2, had repealed several laws through its Section 241.
These repealed laws included the Electoral Rolls Act, 1974, the Delimitation of Constituencies Act, 1974, the Senate Election Act, 1975, the Representation of the People Act, 1976, the Election Commission Order 2002, the Conduct of General Election Order, 2002, the Political Parties Order, 2002 and the Allocation of Symbols Order, 2002.
After hearing arguments today, the IHC issued notices to all the parties and suspended the clause no 241 o the Election Act 2017 until the next hearing.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Awami Muslim League (AML) also challenged the Election Act 2017, which paved the way for Nawaz Sharif to become head of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) after his disqualification in Panama Papers case ruling on July 28. The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) had also challenged the election bill.
The Election Act 2017 was unanimously passed by the National Assembly with some 40 amendments by the government and the opposition.
The Senate on November 6 had unanimously adopted a bill seeking amendments to the Election Act 2017, with special emphasis on religious minorities. PTI legislator Azam Khan Swati had moved the bill in the upper house.
What is Khatm-e-Nabuwwat matter?
In October, copies of the Elections Act 2017 showing changes to certain parts of the law began circulating on social media.
Through the Election Act, 2017, the words in Form-A “I solemnly swear” had been replaced with “I believe”.
Sections 7B and 7C of the Conduct of General Elections Order, 2002, which relate to the status of Ahmedis, had also been omitted in the Election Act, 2017.
Opposition lawmakers called for a judicial inquiry to fix responsibility for the changes made in the relevant clause in the draft passed by parliament.
Section 7B states that the status of Ahmadis would remain 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.
The petitioner had contended that as a consequence of the repeal of statutes, the provisions relating to Qadiani /Lahori group had also got removed. This, he contended, was against Article 8 and 227 of the Constitution and had resulted in serious law and order situation throughout the country.
Nominating secretaries of the ministries of law and justice, interior and Establishment Division as respondents, the petitioner had requested that operation of the impugned enactment to the extent of repealing of laws under section 241 in respect of Khatm-e-Nabuwat might be suspended.
Responding to the petition, the IHC issued order which said: “Repealing of laws under Section 241 of the Elections Act, 2017 is against the mandate and in conflict with the Constitution (Second Amendment) Act, 1974, therefore, the applicability of the impugned act to the extent of Khatm-e-Nabuwat only is suspended.”
Justice Siddiqui also noted that the contentions raised by the counsel needed consideration and ‘since the vires of the act had been challenged ‘let notice be issued to the Attorney General for Pakistan’ as well as respondents.
The respondents have been directed to file report and para-wise comments with an advance copy to the counsel for the petitioner. Justice Siddiqui also ordered that the report of a committee, headed by Senator Raja Zafarul Haq, might also be submitted before the court in a sealed envelope.
The three-member committee was formed by the government to probe into the change in wording of lawmakers’ oath with regard to avowal of Khatm-e-Nabuwat. This issued had whipped up a controversy and forced the government to immediate revert wording of the oath.
‘IHC order not affecting Nawaz’
Senator Raja Zafarul Haq later rejected media claims that the IHC’s Tuesday decision had also repealed the clause that paved way for the deposed prime minister Nawaz Sharif to resume control of his party as PML-N chief.
“Nawaz Sharif continues to be the party president and this decision has not reversed his candidature. The order is regarding certain sections relating to Khatam-e-Nabuwat,” he said.