The new Election Bill passed by National Assembly and Senate on Thursday has restored the Khatam-e-Nabuwwat clause in its original form. The controversial Section 7C of the Conduct of General Elections Order of 2002 — which has also been restored to its original form — was apparently the most problematic part of the new legislation.
It states that if an enrolled voter’s belief in the finality of the prophethood has been questioned, the voter will have to sign a declaration to reaffirm their belief. Failing this, their name will be deleted from the joint electoral rolls and added to the supplementary list of voters as non-Muslims.
This act of giving citizens the right to bring into question each other’s faiths has had dangerous consequences in this country. In a place where mob justice and lynching on allegations of blasphemy are frequent occurrences, the Parliament holds the responsibility to amend draconian laws to check the culture of bigotry. But in Pakistan the lawmakers themselves engage in hate speech against the minorities.
At the time of passage of the bill, Law Minister Zahid Hamid reaffirmed his and his family’s faith in response to allegations by religious groups that he was behind the ‘clerical error’ that initially removed the Khatam-e-Nabuwwat clause. That a sitting minister had to reaffirm his faith, which is supposed to be something entirely personal, is reflective of the sad state of affairs in the country. It shows that the religious extremist groups still reign supreme.