Pakistan has a large majority of Muslims. According to statistics, the number of non-Muslim Pakistanis has remained slightly below four percent. The final statics of the sixth population census of Pakistan held in 2017 are not yet available, but according to the fifth census, the non-Muslim population was 3.72% of the total population.
Rights of non-Muslim citizens in Pakistan
The Constitution of Pakistan assures protection and support to minorities in the country. Non-Muslim citizens are allowed to follow the laws of their religions. Pakistan’s Constitution clearly states in article 20 “(a) every citizen shall have the right to profess, practice and propagate his religion; and (b) every religious denomination and every sect thereof shall have the right to establish, maintain and manage its religious institutions.” Article 27 states that no one can be discriminated against on the basis of religion or any other distinction in the appointment in the service of Pakistan. According to Article 36, the state shall safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of minorities, including their due representation in the federal and provincial services. A five percent quota is reserved for non-Muslim Pakistanis in the civil services of the country.
Political inclusion of minorities
The Constitution of Pakistan guarantees political inclusion of minorities by reserving a quota in Parliament and all Provincial Assemblies. Article 51(4) of the Constitution reserves ten national assembly seats for minorities. Article 106 also guarantees non-Muslim reserved seats in all Provincial Assemblies. Parliament reiterated its resolve to mainstream minorities in its promulgation of the Elections Act, 2017. Section 48 of the Act asks for special measures for the enrolment of non-Muslims and bounds institutions to give priority to any activity related to this effort. Section 104 asks political parties to submit a priority list of non-Muslim candidates with their nomination papers and also provides detailed procedures for filling-up reserved seats.
Reserved seats for non-Muslim legislators
The constitutional promise to include non-Muslim Pakistani citizens in the electoral and legislative process is met by electing minority members in different houses of the legislature in Pakistan and its provinces. The Senate of Pakistan has four reserved seats. Details are shown in the table below:
Non-Muslim reserved seats in the Senate of Pakistan
|Seats reserved for non-Muslims||1||1||1||1||4|
Non-Muslim reserved seats in the National Assembly of Pakistan
Ten seats have been reserved for minorities in the National Assembly of Pakistan. According to the Constitution, the whole country is the constituency for these reserved seats. This means that no specific quota for any geographic area or federating unit has been set and political parties are free to nominate their candidates from any area. These seats are filled through the method of proportional representation. Minority seats are allocated to parties according to the proportion of general seats they have bagged in the elections. The party winning less than five percent of the general seats does not get any quota of reserved seats.
Similarly, all Provincial Assemblies also have reserved seats for minorities. At present, the total number of reserved seats on which members of Provincial Assemblies will be elected in the 2018 General Election is 23. Province-wise details of the reserved seats are shown below:
Non-Muslim reserved seats in the Provincial Assemblies of Pakistan
|Non-Muslim reserved seats||3||3||8||9||23|
The number of provincial seats for KP has been increased as a result of the merger of FATA and KP after the 25th constitutional amendment passed by Parliament in May 2018. This change will take effect after the General Election. The new number of seats for the KP assembly, according to the 25th constitutional amendment will increase and the number of reserved seats for minorities will also rise from three to four. Resultantly, the overall number of reserved seats for non-Muslim Pakistanis will reach 24.