Voters foggy about existence of reserved seats

Residents of Shabqadar unaware of quota for non-Muslims

Mureeb Mohmand May 30, 2015
Mumtaz Begum. PHOTO: FILE

SHABQADAR: Hopeful of votes from their neighbourhood friends, minorities in Shabqadar are optimistic about victory today, when local government elections will take place after several years.

Mumtaz Begum, a 55-year-old, is contesting a village council seat for minorities from Municipal Council 3 against her nephew Rizwan Masih who is supported by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf.

Talking to The Express Tribune, Mumtaz Begum says she has worked for Muslims living in Shabqadar Bazaar. Her husband Iqbal worked as a janitor in the municipal committee for years, and so Muslims know them both. Iqbal’s family is among those Christians who migrated to Shabqadar after the British armies took up residence at Shabqadar Fort.

Having lived among Muslims for long, Mumtaz Begum is sure she will get enough votes but complains the majority are not aware of the specific inclusion of minorities in the system. They would vote for her on the basis of personal ties but do not know that people from other religious backgrounds have an official place in the new local government.

Lack of awareness

When voters, and even some candidates, are not aware of seats which only minority aspirants will stand from, then it seems a stretch to expect true representation at the local level.

During one of the rallies for PTI’s tehsil candidate Malik Haider, voter Ikram Shah was asked if he was aware of the reserved seats for minorities. Shah did not know of any such quota.

Haider on the other hand was more aware and says he wants to vote for Rizwan. But, Haider adds, Rizwan might not get many votes as in the past those contesting minority seats get votes from their respective communities only.

Using his own popularity, MC2 village council candidate Riaz Masih also known as Raji by his neighbours is trying to make people in his area aware of how minority seats work.

Nasrullah from the same MC says he had no prior knowledge about reserved seats at the village level, but Raji approached him while campaigning and told him about the seat system. Now, Nasrullah says, “I will vote for Raji; minority candidates should not only be voted for by people of their faith.”

Splitting a small vote bank

Raji is standing against his next door neighbour and relative Zaki Masih in MC 2. On a first name basis with most in his area, Raji is hopeful of his victory over Zaki since the latter is not well-known in their locality.

Mumtaz Begum’s husband says there are few Christians in Shabqadar and most of them work for the government and hold grudges against each other. With his nephew Rizwan in the mix, Iqbal says, it is unlikely Christians will unanimously support his wife.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 30th, 2015.

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