As Pakistani public celebrate successful transition of power from one elected government to another through 2013 general elections, some very important questions come up in my mind regarding possible participation of minorities which include Shia Muslims, Christians, Hindus and Ahmedies. Approx figures of non Muslim minorities in Pakistan range from 6 to 10 percent of total Pakistani population. Shia muslims make up to 20 to 35 percent. However, the new wave of violence against minorities in Pakistan namely Shia’s and Christians is a matter of concern. Also almost negligible participation of non Muslim minority candidates in elections depicts the trust deficit minorities have in Pakistan’s democratic system. We also did not see open support by different leading political parties for rights of minorities in Pakistan. May be this is the reason that Pakistan’s minorities did not openly support any political party and decided to vote for their local candidates based on individual preferences.
But despite all above issues, did Pakistan’s minorities participate in these elections? Well the answer can be Yes and No. If we look at voter’s turnout then there is a possibility that minorities did come out to vote, however, did they vote for safe guarding their rights? The answer is No. They voted on individual preferences and for their local Muslim candidates. Murder of Christian Federal Minister Mr Shahbaz Bhatti, attacks on Christian neighborhood in Lahore, killing of Hazara Shias in Balochistan are one of few incidents targeting minorities in Pakistan. With such attacks pacing up, Muslim and non Muslim minorities of Pakistan remain under constant threat from terrorist and fundamental elements. Non Muslim minorities know that blasphemy law can be used against them at any time leading to death sentence with minimal proof. Most of such cases were later reported to be fake and were charged for vested interests of accusers. In these circumstances, and with almost no emphasis on safe guarding rights of minorities in Pakistan by leading political parties, one finds it hard to believe that minorities voted with same zeal and commitment as their Muslim brothers and sisters did.
Both National and Provisional Assemblies of Pakistan have reserved seats for minorities and women. Candidates are nominated based on number of seats won by different political parties. These candidates enjoy equal status as of elected members of assemblies, however can be replaced by nominating political party at any time and their membership is subject to party loyalty.
Surveys have shown that there are 96 constituencies of National and Provincial Assemblies where minorities dominate voter strength and without their support it’s impossible for competing candidates to win. However, these minority voter dominated constituencies are represented by Muslim candidates in NA and PA. The security challenges did hamper minority voter turnout in Pakistan, a lot needs to be done to ensure minorities in Pakistan fully participate in electoral process of Pakistan and their immediate concerns are addressed namely security. The confidence building mechanism have to be undertaken by leading Parties. Minorities should also focus on a single platform like they had early 90’s.
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