Pakistani citizens who want to run for public office must declare their religious beliefs to be considered eligible, the Islamabad High Court ruled on Friday. The order is part of the court’s verdict in the case related to controversial changes to the Khatm-i-Nabuwwat, or Finality of Prophethood, oath in the Elections Act 2017, Dawn reported.

The amendment to the oath that lawmakers take had led to violent clashes between the police and anti-blasphemy protestors in November 2017, leaving six people dead and at least 200 injured.

“Citizens applying for jobs in state institutions must take an oath that ensures compliance with the definition of Muslim and non-Muslim provided in the Constitution,” said Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui.

He added that the Pakistani Constitution granted people “complete religious freedom, including all basic rights of minorities”, and that the state was bound to “protect their life, wealth, property, dignity and assets as citizens of Pakistan”.

“The Khatm-i-Nabuwwat oath is the foundation of our religion, and it is the duty of every Muslim to protect this core belief,” Justice Siddiqui wrote in his order.

The amendment and protests

On November 6, 2017, the Pakistani government amended the oath election candidates take when they are sworn in. Earlier, candidates were expected to “solemnly swear” that they believe Muhammad was Islam’s last prophet. The amended form of the oath asks candidates to say they “believe” in the finality of Muhammad’s prophethood.

The bill also omits some sections about Ahmedis – a sect of Muslims who also believe in the prophethood of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, their founder.

After facing opposition to the amendment, the government quickly reversed it, but the protestors – led mainly by a hardline group called the Tehreek-i-Labaik – said they will continue their agitation until Pakistan’s Law Minister Zahid Hamid resigns, as they believe he oversaw the introduction and passage of the Elections Amendment Bill 2017. The protestors held that this amounts to blasphemy under Pakistan’s laws.

The protests ended after Hamid resigned in November.