Christians, Sikhs and Hindus demand electoral reform for better representation
by Shafique Khokhar
Minorities demand a change in the law, with the transition from a “unified” to “dual” vote. The current law does not encourage participation and effectively excludes non-Muslims from political life. Christian activist also calls for “quotas” for women from religious minorities.
Faisalabad (AsiaNews) – A reform of the electoral system, which allows greater representation of religious minorities in Pakistan, according to the principle of equality enshrined by the founding father Ali Jinnah. This is what Christians, Hindus, Bihai leaders are asking ahead of the next general election in 2013, to be held between April and May. For the promoters of the reform, the government – before going to the polls – should amend the law by deleting the current “joint electoral system” in favor of a system with “dual voting”. Added to this is the demand of most parties to support candidates from minorities in the national and provincial assemblies, as well as the entry of “non-Muslim” women among the seats reserved for quotas for women, banning “any form of discrimination.”
On 25 February in Faisalabad, Punjab, a public forum on “Elections 2013 and reserves of minorities” was held which was attended by about 250 people from different religious communities, as well as priests, catechists, politicians and members of civil society. The debate focused on the electoral law, the “separate” system in force in the past and the current “joint” system a source of discontent and dissatisfaction, which prompted the creation of a united front that is pushing for the approval of the “Dual Voting Electoral System “, which would allow greater participation.
In 2002, former President Musharraf introduced the “joint electoral system”, which allows non-Muslims to vote for the Islamic candidates of the respective constituencies. It does not allow, however, Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, etc power of decision on the seats reserved for minorities, thereby removing the theoretical equality of rights, in access to the Assemblies (lower house and senate). This lack of representation has in fact relegated the non-Muslim political component within the national parliament and in the different provinces to the margins. The “dual” vote thus appears to many leaders the best way to ensure a greater presence, reinforcing the concept of the “multicultural” nation outlined by the founding father of Qaid-e-Azam.
Naveed Walter, President of Human Rights Focus Pakistan (Hrfp), explains that with the separate electoral system “we only vote for people of our own religion”, and this “keeps us away from the active center of politics”, but for now “we can only vote for Muslim and this leads [the Christians] to lose interest in politics. ” And a handful of seats, he adds, cannot guarantee “more political rights” and this is why a “dual vote” to elect “direct” representatives is needed. The former lawmaker George Clement calls “a collective effort” to reform “all discriminatory practices” against minorities, including the electoral law. Finally, the Christian activist Rehana Yasmeen asks that “seats be reserved for women belonging to religious minorities,” for a true equality.