By Ali Usman Qasmi, who is an associate professor of history at LUMS.
Herald: In electoral reform law containing provisions related to the holding of elections in Pakistan became a focus of controversy immediately after its passage with bipartisan approval in 2017. It changed the wording of an oath – from “I solemnly swear” to “I declare” – which all those contesting elections must take, affirming their faith in khatm-e-nabuwwat (the finality of the prophethood). Initially, the government insisted, and rightly so, that the amendment did not alter legal provisions that require Ahmadis – who are seen as having challenged that finality – to declare themselves as non-Muslims in order to contest elections on general seats. Later, under pressure from religious groups and news media, it backtracked and called the change ‘a clerical error’. The admission did not reduce the pressure on it but rather fueled suspicions that there were some sinister motives behind the change in wording. This gave some religious groups an opportunity to launch a movement against the government in November last year.
Amidst this brouhaha, a petition was filed by Maulana Allah Wasaya – head of the Aalmi Majlis Tahaffuz Khatm-e-Nubuwwat who is also known for his extreme anti-Ahmadi views – in the Islamabad High Court. He sought an inquiry to find out those who had made changes in the oath and he wanted them punished. Among other things, he also asked the court to create a database of Ahmadis living in Pakistan, especially those holding high-ranking offices in the bureaucracy.