Representation for women and minorities

The present system is counter-productive to having reserved representation for marginalised sections in society.

Yasser Latif Hamdani September 13, 2010

During the course of the recent hearings on the 18th amendment, one of the Supreme Court justices questioned whether members of the National Assembly on reserved seats, for women and minorities, could be described as elected representatives of the people since these members are nominated by the head of a political party.

This is a very valid point that requires discussion. The present system, where the parties get to decide who to nominate based on a system of proportional representation, is counter-productive to the aim of having reserved representation for marginalised sections in Pakistani society. The members so ‘elected’ through this process are neither professional politicians nor representatives of the minorities and women.  In 2002-2007 legislatures, even the MMA, entirely hostile to all minorities of Pakistan, had a minority representative.

The constitution makes it mandatory for its lawmakers to strive towards a just, fair and equitable society for all citizens of Pakistan regardless of religion, gender or origin.  Unfortunately this obligation is watered down by often contradictory obligations for Islamisation that run at cross purposes to the obligation of creating an egalitarian society.

One way around our constitutional democratic Islamic state's contradictory obligations vis-à-vis Muslim majority and non-Muslim minorities as well as Islam and women's rights is affirmative action for all marginalised groups and the surest way of doing this is by giving actual representatives of these groups a voice in the national legislature. This can be easily achieved by making all reserved seats subject to direct elections, for example, all minorities jointly or severally, whichever works, may — for the purposes of reserved seats — constitute one unified constituency nationally and four provincial constituencies. So demarcated, the top 10 vote getters in the unified national constituency would then be allowed to take their seats in the National Assembly and the equivalent number for each provincial assembly. The same process can be repeated for women.

To ensure real and not illusionary power to these representatives, any matters pertaining to minorities or women should be subject to a veto from these reserved seats for minorities or women, respectively. In other words if a majority of the representatives of minorities veto a legislation which would reasonably affect their rights as citizens of Pakistan, it would not be passed. This would be an actual and material safeguard for non-Muslim Pakistanis and historically consistent with the principle behind the famous 14 points that the Muslims had put forth in counter to the Nehru Report in 1928. The main idea behind the Pakistan Movement was that a permanent cultural majority by sheer numbers should not be allowed to dictate to and dominate a permanent cultural minority. Everything we have done in Pakistan since the passing of the Objectives Resolution has been a negation of that principle.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 14th, 2010.


Talha | 11 years ago | Reply I always wonder if the two state solution is applicable to Pakistan today. The minorities cannot live with the intolerant and careless majority. Jinnahs argument for Muslims of India can be used for the Minorities of Pakistan today. Let's hope that Pakistan gives them right before they rise up against the state. Btw, it's good to have YLH on express. He is one of the most daring writers in Pakistan.
Dorian | 11 years ago | Reply Good to see ylh writing for express.
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