By Khurshid Ahmed
ISLAMABAD: A Rawalpindi based Christian ‘Moderator’ of Presbyterian Church of Pakistan and human rights defender Amin Masih Khokhar has demanded the government to introduce direct voting for the members of parliament belonging to the minority communities in Pakistan.
In a statement on Tuesday, he said there should be an election of minority communities in Pakistan to become members of the parliament instead of ‘selection’, so that the real representatives of the minority communities could reach the parliament and solve their problems.
He said with the 2023 general election looming, almost all the Christian leaders in Pakistan are demanding reserved constituencies for the religious minorities.
He said the right to direct voting to help improve the political footing of Christians and Hindus in the Islamic country.
The Moderator said the current electoral system that allows elected parliamentarians to ‘select’ representatives of religious minorities should be changed.
He said the current electoral system allows Christians and Hindus to elect local representatives. But, from among those representatives, Muslim political parties select minority parliamentarians according to the proportion of general seats they have bagged in the elections.
He said the party winning less than 5 percent of the general seats does not have this right. “Selecto-cracy is the political genocide of minorities”, he regretted.
Amin Masih Khokar said the present electoral system neglects Christians politically and socially.
“The Christian representatives handpicked by leading Muslim political parties are unable to stand up for and protect the interests of their community”, he maintained.
He said the religious minorities should be allowed to elect their own representatives rather than dominant political parties handpicking our representatives. He said Christians are often killed on false allegations of blasphemy but their so-called representatives think and pose that they are living in the paradise.
“They become dumb when it comes to highlighting our challenges like forced conversions,” he lamented.
He said government advertisements continue to reserve sweeper jobs only for Christians. “Despite completing several terms, Christian lawmakers do not address such issues or do anything to promote our youth in the society and politics,” he maintained.
He said there should be reserved constituencies for Christians and Hindus in areas where they dominate, allowing only religious minority candidates to contest those seats. “That will allow religious minorities to elect their own representatives rather than dominant parties handpicking our representatives,” the Moderator elaborated.
He also demanded increase in the seats for religious minorities from 10 to 14 in the 342-seat national assembly. He said the national parliament currently has only four Christian and six Hindu members.
He said, in 1985, when 10 seats were allotted to religious minorities, the national parliament had only 210 seats, which meant religious minorities had some 5 percent of the seats.
He said the demographics of Pakistan have changed much in the past four decades and in 2008 parliament increased its seats to 342. He said if a proportional 5 percent increase was considered, religious minorities should have been given 17 seats. But the minority seats were not increased.
Amin Masih Khokhar said that minority voters now account for 3.63 million or 3.5 percent of the 118 million voters in Pakistan, according to official records.
He said even if those numbers are followed, religious minorities should get 12 seats, which is 3.5 percent of the seats in parliament. He said the basic question is to address the segregation and discrimination on the basis of religion.
Moderator demands minorities election through direct vote
By Khurshid Ahmed