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NA passed Elections Bill 2017 to restore Khatm-e-Nabuwwat laws

17 November, 2017

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ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly on Thursday passed the Elections (Amendment) Bill 2017 to restore Khatm-e-Nabuwwat laws to their original form and make sections relating to it “more effective”.

The bill was tabled by Law Minister Zahid Hamid, who assured the House that he and his family “were Muslims and believed in the finality of prophethood”.

During his address, the law minister said that before 2002 general election, seats were increased and collective polls were approved. He clarified that the same status of Ahmadis and Lahori groups would be retained as in the constitution.

“My family and I are ready to lay our lives for the honour of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH),” the law minister told his critics, some of whom had sought his resignation for his alleged role in the affair. “I firmly believe in Khatm-e-Nabuwwat and can’t even think against it,” he cleared, stressing that he was wrongly quoted in the matter.

While Zahid Hamid was clarifying his stance on the serious concern, Sheikh Rasheed chanted slogans against the government, at which Speaker Ayaz Sadiq turned off his microphone. “We have not asked Law Minister Zahid Hamid to clarify the matter,” said Sheikh Rasheed.

Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal stepped in to support the beleaguered lawmaker, assuring him that: “In a state, faith and connection to God is a matter between him and God. No person can make a decision on anyone’s faith.”

“I will ask my brother [Zahid Hamid] that your faith is your personal matter and you do not need to present any clarification regarding your faith,” he added.

Sections 7B and 7C of the Conduct of General Elections Order, 2002, were also restored to their original form via the bill.

Section 7B states that the status of Ahmadis 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 was contended, they shall have to sign a declaration reaffirming their belief, 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.”

Hamid said that the new amended bill would make the said sections more effective, adding that a separate voters’ list shall be made for Ahmadis as they would not be included in the list of Muslims.

The Khatm-e-Nabuwwat declaration had also been restored to its original form in both English and Urdu, he assured.

The Elections Act 2017 — which paved the way for Nawaz Sharif to return as PML-N president — had sparked a controversy when it was revealed that a declaration regarding the finality of prophethood had been modified somewhere during the process of its passage.

The government had claimed that the modification was a result of a clerical error and vowed to restore the declaration to its original form.

An effort to immediately appease critics had been made last month by passing a bill, which the government had then claimed “restored” the declaration to its original form.

However, religious and political parties and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif had demanded that the responsibility for the error be fixed. A group of irate protesters belonging to religious parties in Islamabad is also demanding the removal of the law minister for what they claim was not a mistake but a “conspiracy”.

It may be mentioned here that before the NA session, the parliamentary leaders at their meeting in Islamabad agreed to revive the 7B and 7C clauses of the Elections (Amendment) Act, relating to Khatam-e-Nabuwat to their original form.

National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, who chaired the meeting, had said that the National Assembly would pass amendments to this effect.

The speaker said that the parliamentary leaders except the MQM also agreed to the constitutional amendment relating to the delimitation of constituencies.

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