Following a stamp of approval for greater minority representation in national and provincial assemblies, non-Muslim lawmakers across Pakistan have decided on two formulas for increasing the number of their seats, and are set to make the final cut today.
On July 11, the federal cabinet approved an increase in minority seats in the national and provincial assemblies. Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf formed a committee, comprising Law Minister Farooq H Naik, Religious Affairs Minister Syed Khurshid Shah and Minister in charge for National Harmony Dr Paul Bhatti, to come up with a system, in this regard.
Non-Muslim lawmakers from across the country initiated a debate and discussion over the issue and developed a consensus on two formulas, which will be presented at a meeting scheduled to be held in Islamabad today (July 25).
Dr Paul Bhatti convened the meeting of around 100 important members of minority communities, including all non-Muslim lawmakers and Federal Public Service Commission Chairman Justice (retd) Bhagwan Das, to agree on a final decision on the seat increase as well as electoral system.
Following the meeting, the three-member committee will present the final proposal to the cabinet for approval, which will later be presented in the house for amendment in the law.
While talking to The Express Tribune, Dr Bhatti said they have come up with two formulas on how to go about the increase in the number of seats – one of which will be endorsed during the meeting.
Currently there are 33 total seats for non-Muslims–10 in the National Assembly (NA), nine in the Sindh Assembly (SA), eight in the Punjab Assembly (PA), and three each in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Assembly and Balochistan Assembly.
Dr Bhatti said the first formula suggests increasing the number of seats for minorities according to the ratio of their population.
According to the 1998 census, around 4% of Pakistan’s total population is non-Muslim. Therefore, he added, if the 4% formula is applied, the total number of non-Muslim seats would increase from 33 to around 45. The NA’s 10 seats would be increased to 14; three more seats in the PA, as well as the SA and one each in the K-P and Balochistan assemblies.
The second formula suggests increasing the number of minorities’ seats in relation to the increase in the number of general seats in the assemblies.
Dr Bhatti said that ever since the 1980s, when there were 170 total seats in the NA, only 10 seats have been reserved for non-Muslims.
The total number of seats gradually increased from 170 to 217, 242, 272 and the current 342; however, the number of non-Muslim seats still stands at 10. The same goes for provincial assemblies.
If this formula was implemented, minorities’ seats would increase from 33 to around 53 – 16 in the NA, 12 in the PA, 13 in the SA and six each in the K-P and Balochistan assemblies.
The other issue which will be tabled during the meeting will be the electoral system for minorities in the assemblies.
In today’s meeting, Dr Bhatti said, lawmakers would try to convince the gathering to endorse the right of dual vote – one vote for a Muslim member and the second for a non-Muslim member regardless of his party affiliation.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 25th, 2012.