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October 4, 2017

Election Bill 2017: ‘No change in provision of finality of Prophethood’

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October 4, 2017

ISLAMABAD: Law Minister Zahid Hamid on Tuesday informed the National Assembly that the provision regarding finality of the prophethood had not been omitted from the Election Bill 2017.

Presenting a clarification in the National Assembly regarding the misinformation on the social and print media, he said the government could not even think of deleting that provision.

“The column of Khatam-e-Nubawwat condition has not been excluded from nomination papers through these reforms,” he said. Zahid said only the oath-taking form for the candidate was made simple, but the provision regarding the finality of prophethood had not been changed at all.

“It is being alleged that we have removed the clause from the Act,” he said, explaining that the clause regarding belief in the finality of Prophethood of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is still a part of the Constitution.

Zahid also compared the amended law to the previous Act in order to prove that the clause has not been removed. He read from both versions of the law and said: "In the older Act, the nomination form required the consent of the person, his political affiliation, his belief in the finality of prophethood, and faithful declaration to follow the vision of Quaid-e-Azam, which is followed by other questions.

“Similarly, Form A of the new Act also asks for a person’s consent, political affiliation, belief in the finality of Prophethood, Quaid-e-Azam’s vision, followed by other questions,” said the law minister. “They are exactly the same, there is no change,” he pointed out, adding that it is "sad that our opponents are criticising us for it".

Regarding another point, the law minister said the Election Bill 2017 had not been passed in isolation and rejected the impression that it was meant to benefit a specific person. He said it was the Political Parties Act 1962 that had barred any person disqualified by a court from holding a public office.

He said Zulfikar Ali Bhutto omitted that provision in 1975, but later Pervez Musharraf again inserted the same in the Political Parties Order 2002 to keep Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif out of parliament.

The minister said the decision to repeal that clause was taken unanimously at the sub-committee meeting of the parliamentary committee on electoral reforms held on 17-11-2014, much before the Panama Papers case.

He said the legislation was aimed at strengthening the democratic system and economic stability in the country. He said the Election Commission had been given more powers to ensure free, fair and transparent elections.

He said the bill was approved by the National Assembly before the Panama Papers case decision, adding that the amendment was suggested by the PPP in 2014 which was accepted by the government and included in the bill.

He said after approval by the National Assembly, it was tabled in the Senate and referred to the committee which recommended the bill. He made it clear that any member or party did not object to the said section of the bill during its approval by the Upper House.

Zahid said the government placed the bill for public opinion and suggestions and 631 proposals were received from general public and parliamentarians. He said 200 amendments were suggested in the Parliament and none of them demanded to restore the Section 203 of the bill.

He said the opponents were levelling baseless allegations against the government for their personal interests. Later, the legislators belonging to different parties expressed their concerns on removal of word ‘oath’ from the declaration regarding finality of the prophethood and urged it could be corrected if it had been removed mistakenly or was a clerical.

JI parliamentary leader Sahibzada Tariqullah said the removal of word oath from declaration was a matter of concern and objected as to why the words “solemnly swear” had been omitted. He pointed out that Sections 7-B and 7-C, which were parts of the Conduct of General Elections Act 2002, had also been removed.

Minister of Housing and Works Akram Khan Durrani said his party chief Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman had called him from Makkah and asked the legal experts of the party to review matter, adding that the issue could be rectified in case of any misunderstanding.

Deputy Speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi, who was chairing the session, observed that the entire House and all the political parties were on same page. There would be no compromise on the matter which could be resolved if there was any misunderstanding or complications, he added.

PTI’s deputy parliamentary leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi described it as a sensitive matter which should be handled carefully. Ali Muhammad Khan, also from PTI, said the misconception regarding ‘declaration’ and ‘oath’ must be resolved.  

Minister of State for IT Anusha Rehman, criticising PTI, said that it was committed in deceiving and making the general public fool and its leaders are proved to be ill-principled. She said that PTI leader Shafqat Mahmood accepted that they attended more than 90 meetings and both the Houses approved the Election Bill-2017.

Anusha said Senator Aitzaz Ahsan also raised objection against the Bill; however , Parliament approved it. She said that Article 63 has not been changed and no one was working to amend the paragraph about Khatm-e -Nubuwwat and it will remain in the Constitution.  

Mian Abdul Manan of the PML-N also supported Durrani’s point of view, saying “all of us believe in the finality of prophethood and ready to remove the misunderstandings”.

ANP’s Haji Ghulam Bilour stressed the need for collective efforts to remove the misunderstandings and to correct the things.

Naeema Kishwar of JUI-F said all the lawmakers were on same page regarding Khatam-e-Nubawwat. During the Tuesday’s session, three bills were tabled before the House. These are: The Right to Free and Compulsory Education (Amendment) Bill 2017, The Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2017 and The General Statistics (Reorganization) (Amendment) Bill 2017.   The chair referred the bills to relevant standing committees for further deliberations.        

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