ISLAMABAD – It has been a rule of law that citizens of Pakistan must self-identify their religion on their passports. Now a judge on the Islamabad High Court has extended the rule to greater lengths.
In a ruling delivered on Friday, 09 March 2018, Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui has ordered that Pakistan citizens must also make a formal declaration of their faith before they may obtain a national identity card, register to vote, or join the armed forces, civil services, or any government or semi-government institutions.
In addition, if a member of a minority group (most of Pakistan’s population of 208 million is Muslim) should attempt to conceal or misrepresent their religion, they will be subject to prosecution on the grounds that they have betrayed the state and exploited the constitution.
In addition, the ruling supports the declaration of the Prophethood in the Elections Act of 2017 which requires a those applying for the armed forces and certain civil service and government jobs to submit a written affidavit declaring “the matter of absolute and unqualified finality of the prophethood of Muhammed, the last of the Prophets”
While ordering the mandatory registration, the justice took the position that the Pakistan constitution declares religious freedom. Therefore, the order supports both the Constitution and the Elections Act of 2017.
A few minorities are protesting the move which could almost inevitably be utilized in the future to segregate selected groups for persecution. Some Christians, however, believe that having their faith identified may provide them with adequate grounds for seeking asylum should such persecution come to pass.
The ruling was delivered primarily to have a way to distinguish between Muslim and Ahmadis whose appearance and names are so similar that distinguishing between them is often not possible. The Ahmadi are a branch of Islam who do not agree with the mainline Muslims that Muhammed was the last of the prophets. They believe that a 19th century Muslim, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad rightfully holds that title.
While the justice has done what he deemed best in the national interest in the short term, the ruling could have severe unintended consequences for minorities in the long-term.
- World Watch Monitor, Pakistan court orders citizens to declare religion
- Reuters, In blow to minorities, Pakistani court orders citizens to declare religion
- DAWN News, Declaration of faith compulsory before joining civil, armed services and judiciary: Islamabad High Court
- DAWN News, Faith declaration must for govt jobs, rules IHC