In a bid to give non-Muslims greater representation in parliament, President Asif Ali Zardari has signed an amendment in Senate election rules to reserve four seats for minorities.
The amendment in the Senate (Election) Rules 1975 came in compliance with provisions of the 18th constitutional amendment, which envisage four seats for non-Muslims, one from each province. Each provincial assembly will elect a senator in the next Senate polls, scheduled for March 2012.
Although 10 seats are reserved in the National Assembly for minority members, there is no representation for minorities in the 100-member Senate.
The amendment in Article 51 of the constitution, introduced through the 18th amendment, discusses reserved seats for women and non-Muslims in the National Assembly and has been challenged in the Supreme Court.
The court is yet to decide on the fate of the amendment but during the course of hearing of petitions challenging the 18th amendment, the court had observed that the process of nominating persons to seats reserved for women and non-Muslims was “selection, and not election” made on personal likes and dislikes of party heads.
J Salik, a minority leader and former federal minister, had contended before the court through his petition that the system of proportional representation introduced by amending Article 51 under the 18th amendment was against the basic structure of the 1973 Constitution.
Minorities’ leaders are of the view that the amendment will deprive them of their fundamental rights, which have been guaranteed in the constitution, of electing their representatives.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 26th, 2011.
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