Faith declaration must for all public servants

* IHC rules failure to declare 'true faith' before joining army, judiciary and civil service can make one guilty of betraying the State and exploiting the constitution * Citizens' faith must be mentioned on birth certificates, ID cards, voter lists and passports

ISLAMABAD: In a highly questionable interpretation of Article 5 (loyalty to the state) the Constitution, Justice Shaukat Siddiqui of the Islamabad High Court has held that it is mandatory for every citizen of Pakistan to declare their ‘true faith’ to the State.

He made this observation in his short order in a case concerning amendments made to the Khatm-i-Nabuwwat (Finality of Prophethood) oath in the Elections Act of 2017. The verdict was announced on Friday.

Justice Siddiqui ruled that faith of all citizens should be mentioned on their birth certificates, their national identity cards, on voters’ lists as well as on passports.

Further in the verdict, the IHC justice said that failure on the citizens’ part to confess their faith would make them guilty of ‘betraying the State’ and ‘exploiting the Constitution’.

Justice Siddiqui said Article 5 of the Constitution demanded that citizens remained ‘faithful’ to the state and ‘abided by the rule of law and Constitution’.

The justice held that declaration of faith was mandatory before joining civil or armed services as well as judiciary.

He said it was compulsory for all Pakistani citizens to take an oath regarding their faith if they sought to join the civil service, the armed forces, or the judiciary. “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,” he asserted.

He emphasised that the Constitution granted ‘complete religious freedom, including all the basic rights of the minorities (non-Muslims) and that the state was bound to protect their life, wealth, property, dignity and protect their assets as citizens of Pakistan’.

However, he said that Article 260 (3)(a) and (b) of the Constitution defined ‘the distinction between Muslims and non-Muslims’, adding that it was alarming that the matter had not yet been properly legislated.

He said it was alarming that ‘one of the minorities was often mistaken for being Muslims due to their names and general attire’, adding, ‘this can lead them to gain access to dignified and sensitive posts, along with benefits’.

“The Khatm-i-Nabuwwat oath is the foundation of our religion and it is the duty of every Muslim to protect this core belief,” Justice Siddiqui said further, directing the Parliament to ‘take steps for the protection of the belief in the finality of the Prophethood’.

Warning citizens against indulging in fraudulent behaviour by mentioning an ‘incorrect’ religion in their identification documents, Justice Siddiqui ordered the National Database and Registration Authority to set a deadline by which citizens could check their details for the religion mentioned in the identity documents and fix any errors, if needed.

He also directed Nadra to review and fix its database, noting that there was an alarming difference in Nadra’s record and the provisional results of the recent population census on the population of a specific minority group in the country.

Justice Siddiqui also directed educational institutions to ensure that teachers of Islamiyat and religious studies ‘belonged to the Islamic faith’. Detailed judgement will be issued at a later date.

Published in Daily Times, March 10th 2018.