Minorities and politics

Minorities and politics


The total minorities vote bank in Pakistan has increased from 2.77 million in the 2013 elections to 2.99 million at present, with certain districts in Sindh and Punjab having a sizeable proportion of minorities in them. This is surely an improvement, but it does not mask the fact that minorities in Pakistan rarely have the amount of political influence to get their candidates to provincial and central legislature. While there are certain positive discrimination measures at place, such as reserved seats for minorities, but, for the most part, they are nothing more than token representatives without real political capital.

To make matters worse, there are reports of minorities leaving Pakistan out of fear of persecution. In response to this even the Indian government, whether to score propaganda points or out of concern, announced that it would make the process of obtaining citizenship for Pakistani Hindus easy in April last year. While castigating the Indian government here for announcing measures without actually following through on them in order to malign Pakistan might be easy, but it would not help address the underlying problem. Minorities in Pakistan are insecure and they do not have enough representation in government to translate their concerns into government policy making.

Furthermore, the majority of minorities that live in Pakistan belong to low socioeconomic classes. This is partly because those who have the wherewithal to leave Pakistan do so. And those who are left find themselves at a lower social stratification level than Muslims belonging to the same economic class. While their labour is utilised, they are underpaid, leaving them trapped in a cycle of poverty. Moreover, they are even pushed to the fringes, and stigmatised just because of their religious identity. This is the product of a particular societal attitude in Pakistan that feeds on a sense of misplaced entitlement of the religious majority.

In all of this the solution is clear: empowerment of minorities. The reason the religious majority of Pakistan can carry out its mistreatment of minorities with impunity is because the minorities do not have sufficient degree of political power to take them to task. Here mere token measures would simply not suffice. First, legislation would have to be introduced that clearly protects the minorities against the abuses of the majority. In this regard some work has already been done. For example, the Protection of Minorities Bill passed by the Sindh Assembly in November last year is an indication that the tide of change in Pakistan is pointed at the right direction. However, merely legislation would not suffice. The rights of minorities need to enforced in Pakistan and in this regard the government should make it a policy never to capitulate to the religious right. When angry mobs can scare the minorities off so that it can forcefully posses their property, then minorities can hardly be expected to have any kind of political organisation. Only through providing minorities a secure environment can conducive conditions be created and necessary autonomy provided to them that can, in turn, enable them to hold political influence and lobby for their interests.

Courtesy: https://dailytimes.com.pk/editorial/11-Jan-17/minorities-and-politics