The curious case of Patras Masih & family
Patras Masih, a resident of Hansa Colony in Islamabad’s sector G-8/1 was not aware that a clerical mistake by National Database & Registration Authority (NADRA) not only deprived his children of their religious identity but it would also cost one of them of the constitutional right to cast her vote in the upcoming general elections.
A mason by profession, Patras Masih s/o Abdullah Masih came to know this on April 13, 2018 when he and his daughter Pamela Shehzad Masih were taken by a PTI lady councilor to NADRA office in Blue Area for issuance of Computerized National Identity Card (CNIC) for Pamela.
“When we took the token to the relevant counter for Pamela’s CNIC, we were told by the NADRA official that the record showed she belonged to a Muslim family,” said Patras Masih while telling his story to Pakistan Observer here Monday. Not only Pamela but her younger sister Samreen and younger brother Saniyal are also registered as Muslims, though they are too young to cast their vote. Interestingly, Patras’ elder son Anees Shehzad Masih and elder daughter Anita Shehzad Masih are registered as Christians.
The lady councilor and I, both, requested the NADRA official to correct the mistake as it is obvious from my name ‘Patras Masih.’ Moreover the councilor also told that she knew our family and the residential colony we lived in, all belonged to Christian residents, added Patras Masih.
However, their request was turned down by NADRA as according to them it fell in ‘change of religion’ category and a single bench of the Islamabad High Court earlier in February this year had restrained NADRA from entertaining any such request without court’s permission. Patras Masih and his two elder children have cast their votes in the Local Government elections in Islamabad as Christian voters and Patras cast his vote in 2013 general elections too but since his third child Pamela has attained the age (18 years) now to be registered in electoral roll, the clerical mistake by NADRA has cost her the right to vote.
Now according to NADRA’s record he is father of two Christian and three Muslim children. “This is a very serious matter and we feel threatened as someone can accuse us of converting from Muslim to Christian,” fears Patras Masih. William Pervaiz, representative of Pattan, an NGO working for marginalized communities, said he would take Patras and his children to NADRA office and would try to get things done properly. However, a senior official of NADRA when contacted for his point of views, said the Authority could not do this on a simply application as in case of change of address or other minor changes.
“We are legally bound to Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui’s Feb 23, 2018 order in which the Hon’ble court had restrained the Authority from entertaining any change/correction in religion column without the court’s prior permission,” said the NADRA official. He admitted that NADRA was receiving quite a large number of such applications in which the religion column was entered wrongly (inadvertently) by NADRA but we have been asking them to go to the court and bring a permission letter/order by the in this regard, he said.