MPA Asif Mahmood is now officially a Christian.
An official statement, issued by the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) on Friday, said that the erroneous entry that identified Mahmood as a Muslim had been rectified.
The statement reads: “[A] high level inquiry was ordered by the authority to investigate the matter as to why such inconvenience was caused to our honourable MPA… [I]t was revealed that a NADRA data entry operator had mistakenly put his religion down as Islam because of his Muslim-sounding name.”
It goes on to say that the matter is still being investigated and the data entry operator who made the mistake “is likely to get a serious warning for committing such a big mistake.”
The issue first came to limelight after a petition was filed against the MPA for holding a minority seat despite being identified as a Muslim in NADRA records. Mahmood had stated then that despite his pointing out the mistake to NADRA, the authority had refused to entertain his request.
MPA Mahmood will receive his new computerised national identity card (CNIC) by Saturday evening or Monday morning, the latest, NADRA officials told The Express Tribune.
Naz Shoeb, the authority’s media and communications director, confirmed that the records had been rectified, “The religion [entry] has now been changed to Christianity.”
NADRA does not charge for rectifying any clerical errors (if proven), within 90 days of being issued an identity card. After 90 days, Shoeb said, the applicant is required to reapply. She added that it was the applicant’s responsibility to scrutinise the ‘filled application form’ once the data is entered.
The Lahore High Court had issued a notice to the MPA for May 8 in a petition filed by Faisal Ilyas. The petitioner had challenged Mahmood’s election to a minority seat when NADRA records identified him as a Muslim. He had also submitted that Mahmood was a Canadian national and the Constitution did not allow the citizen of another country to be elected to legislatures in Pakistan.
But Mahmood had said that he was a Christian and was identified as such on his passport.
Mahmood said that he was born into a Christian family and his father Rana Taj Mahmood had contested elections as a Christian in 1948. He said one of his brothers, Humayun Khalid Mahmood, had been elected to a union council on a minority seat in 1987. He said his two other brothers were recently retired from army posts.
Human rights activists had criticised NADRA for not correcting the mistake it had made.
Peter Jacob, executive director of the National Commission for Justice and Peace, had said that he had come across other examples of NADRA misidentifying a person’s religion because of their name and not rectifying it. “It’s as simple as showing a certificate from the church, which carries a record of people of the Christian faith,” he had said.“Typographical errors costing a person his religion and then not being rectified – that’s very disturbing,” activist Khalid Shah had said.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 21st, 2012.