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Religious minorities apprehensive about IHC’s ruling on declaring faith

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Religious minorities and rights activists feel apprehensive about Islamabad High Court’s verdict ordering declaration of faith compulsory before joining judiciary, Pakistan army and civil services. IHC on March 9, announced its ruling in a case related to amendments to the Khatam-e-Nabuwat oath in Election Act 2017. This ruling has generated a wave of anxiety as it is deemed as a blow to the religious minorities nestled in the country.

Religious freedom in Pakistan

Islamabad High Court judge Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, stated that in line with Article 5 of the Constitution every citizen must abide by the rules of the law and Constitution. On the other he said that the Constitution guarantees religious freedom to the minorities and that the Constitution grants all basic rights to the Non-Muslim Pakistanis while it is the duty of the state to protect their life, wealth, property, dignity and their assets.

Also Read: Pakistani Bishops to invite Pope Francis to Pakistan

The ruling demanded declaring “true faith” mandatory failure to do so could make one guilty of “betraying the State” and “exploiting the Constitution”. All citizens must have their faith mentioned on their birth certificates, National Identity cards, passports and voter’s lists.Justice Siddiqui in his order further ordered that the educational institutions should make sure that Muslim teachers must be appointed to teach Islamiyat and religious studies.

Moreover, all citizens including non-Muslims will be required to take oath regarding faith before joining army, judiciary and civil services. “Citizens applying for jobs in state institutions must take an oath which ensures compliance with the definition of Muslim and non-Muslim provided in the Constitution,” the order read. Religious minorities, such as Christians or Hindus, would not be required to swear to this part of the oath.

The ruling has generated a wave of apprehension among the religious minorities and the rights activist. In this regard, Nasir Saeed director of CLAAS-UK expressed deep concerns about the ruling saying that the order will fan hatred and religious intolerance in the society. Implementation of this verdict will leave religious minorities in more vulnerable position.

“Religious minorities who are already under attack and suffering because of discriminatory laws and the government’s discriminatory policies will come further under attack,” he stated. He advised that such policies must not be adopted instead; the government should take efficacious steps in order to promote religious tolerance.

He said that government needs to take actions ensuring equal rights for the religious minorities; who need to be assured of protection of their lives, places of worship and properties. Founder of Pakistan, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah in his first presidential speech ensured equal rights to the religious minorities, bestowing upon them the status of equal citizens.