In a move which has baffled civil society and legal analysts, the Punjab cabinet has approved an amendment to the law that makes it compulsory for couples to take an oath testifying their belief in Khatm-e-Nabuwwat (finality of Prophethood) as part of their nikah.
“Aren’t the present laws and Constitution enough? This is just playing politics on religion and religious sentiments”, lawyer Asad Jamal told Dawn, noting that such declarations were already required to receive identity documents.
“Is the religion under some special threat in Punjab? The right-wing movement is indeed strong in the Punjab Assembly, and may not even face resistance because people will be scared to talk about it” Jamal questioned, adding that the Muslim Family Laws are a federal matter, not a provincial one.
Lawyer and rights’ activist Nighat Dad echoed the sentiment, saying “The identity documents for every citizen of Pakistan already require such an oath and when a person isn’t assuming a public office, why would this be required? Religion or belief is a personal choice anyway, so why take an oath to declare it before marriage or anything for that matter?”
Executive Director of Women in Struggle for Empowerment Bushra Khaliq opined that the new ruling may further marginalize religious minorities.
“We’re very sensitive and emotional about religion and become reactionary, which often discriminates against others’ rights and endangers lives. If we make declaration of faith a prerequisite for marriage, the sensitivity of the issue will increase. This can also lead to further discrimination against and isolation of religious minorities,” she said.