LAHORE: The Ahmadiya community will not cast votes in the May 11 elections because of the “attitude of the State”, Jamaat-i-Ahmadiya Pakistan Spokesperson Saleemudin told The Express Tribune on Sunday.
Ahmadis are unable to register as Muslim voters. The election commission used the NADRA data to register Ahmadis in a separate roll. However Ahmadis say they will not avail their right to vote.
Saleemudin said there were up to 200,000 members of the community in the country. Every government, he said, has pandered to anti-Ahmadiya elements which was why Ahmadis had been unable to cast their votes.
“The separate voter list for Ahmadis published by the election commission contains our latest addresses...this exposes us to great risk,” Saleemudin said. Anyone can obtain these rolls, he said.
Ahmadis have dissociated themselves from elections for nearly four decades. “We do not have voting rights to any assembly or district. We don’t even have representation in the town council of Chenab Nagar where 95 per cent of the population is Ahmadi,” Saleemudin said.
Ahmadis had participated in elections from 1947 to 1977 when there was a single electorate.
Separate electorates were introduced in 1985 through the eighth amendment. Those who claimed to be Muslim now had to sign a ‘certificate of faith’ denouncing the Ahmadi faith. “Because the form compelled us to call ourselves non-Muslims we were effectively excluded from the voting process,” said Saleemudin.
Hope was raised during former president Pervaiz Musharaf’s regime after he announced a return to the joint electorate, he said. However, anti-Ahmadi elements protested against that in May 2002, forcing Musharaf to rescind his decision. On June 17, 2002, the government issued a separate list of voters in which Ahmadis were listed as non-Muslims. “That order...remains in force,” he said.
Saleemudin said many people had asked him why Ahmadis did not simply fill out the form and get themselves registered. “I tell them we would never disassociate ourselves from the Holy Prophet (pbuh) to get registered as voters,” he said.
In December 2007, several members of the Ahmadiya community wrote letters to the acting prime minister, the chief election commissioner and the president protesting the laws discriminating against their community. Saleemudin said no one had responded except the election commissioner’s office which said he was busy.
Saleemudin said a delegation of Ahmadis had met with Election Commissioner Fakhruddin G Ebrahim to convey their grievance, but the election would still be held under the same rules.
Saleemudin said the government should revise the rules and facilitate their participation through joint electorate that should bear no reference to religion. “We will continue boycotting the elections till our demand is met,” he said.
Form A for voter’s registration states that if a voter claims to be a Muslim, he or she must not be associated with the Qadiani or Lahori Group nor call him or herself an Ahmadi
Published in The Express Tribune, April 22nd, 2013.