Sidelining marginalised groups

Published: November 12, 2015
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Looking at the various moves of the government and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), it would appear that Ahmadis are being systematically alienated from the country’s democratic system. Ahmadis, who have remained distant from elections since 1977, do not occupy a single assembly seat specified for minorities.

In 1985, General Ziaul Haq introduced the system of separate electorates and voter lists were prepared on the basis of religion, with there being a separate list for every religion. If one wanted to be listed as a Muslim voter, they had to sign a certificate repudiating the founding of Ahmadiyat. This system continued until the rule of General (retd) Pervez Musharraf, who announced the restoration of joint electorates in May 2002. He, however, could not stand by this and on June 17, 2002, had to issue the Chief Executive’s Order No 15, to create a separate ‘supplementary list of voters’ in which Ahmadi voters were categorised as ‘non-Muslim’. It is still in effect.

In the 2002 elections, the ECP introduced two separate forms for registration of voters; one for Muslims (Form 2) and another for Non-Muslims (Form 8). It was made obligatory for Ahmadis to apply using Form 8. The result was that no Ahmadi registered as a voter because they do not accept that they are non-Muslims. Now the ECP has abolished Form 8 and included its wording for non-Muslims in Form 2. This form also includes a warning that providing inaccurate information about religion will be punishable.

On January 17, 2007, the ECP in its letter No F1(6)/2001-Cord ordered “separate supplementary lists of draft electoral rolls for Ahmadis/Qadianis be published”. Ahmadis do not want to avail the right to vote after having been officially categorised by the state as non-Muslims.

Although the chief election commissioner referred to data from NADRA and registered all Ahmadis as voters, they maintain that they do not want to avail this concession at the cost of their faith.

Although the recent local government elections were held on the basis of joint electorate, they are not joint in true spirit. The electorates remain separate, particularly for Ahmadis. These procedures predictably have resulted in disassociation of the Ahmadi community from elections. As such, for decades now, no Ahmadi has been a member of any assembly, be it national, provincial or even district level. Ahmadis have no representation in the town council of even Chenab Nagar (Rabwah), their own town and headquarters. No representative of theirs has contested the local government elections held across the country.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 12th, 2015.

 

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Reader Comments (5)

  • Nasim Malik
    Nov 12, 2015 - 3:38PM

    I Think this article will give more promotion for the tolarance and human rights values in our great home land Pakistan. All the Citizens should have the right to cast his/ her vote according to the Basic Human Rights and the pillar of democracy. And Pakistan has signed on UN charter of Human Rights.Thanks Rana Tanvir Sb for your courage and wisdom. Recommend

  • ch. naeem ahmad
    Nov 12, 2015 - 5:01PM

    no explanation for this kind of behaviour with Ahmadiyya community from government of Pakistan. ECP must register all ahmadis as pakistani voters. at least someone have courage to say some words for marginalised ahmadiyya community. thanksRecommend

  • Nasir
    Nov 12, 2015 - 7:08PM

    Government yet again failed to protect the very basic right of vote just because of false legislations. This is a real shame for Pakistan around the worldRecommend

  • Nasir
    Nov 12, 2015 - 7:11PM

    This is indeed a shameful state for Pakistan and Government should resolve this by acting responsibily.Recommend

  • C M Naim
    Nov 12, 2015 - 8:30PM

    A useful commentary on a sad situation. The administration seems to repeatedly put itself in a double bind. It wants to ensure representation to those it regards as religious minorities — and it does so by reserving seats. That means the electors should disclose their religious identity in order to stand for election. On the other hand the administration wants to have joint elections, which require common electoral rolls. The latter, rationally, means ‘no mention of the elector’s religion.’
    One way out of the dilemna would be to have joint electoral rolls, with voters getting registered without being questioned about their religion or sect. Based on documents that do not require disclosure of relgious affiliation, and with the ‘general’ seats being open to every citizen of Pakistan. While setting up reserved seats, based on religious identities as it deems fit, and asking people who wish to stand for those seats to submit proof of their religious affiliation. No doubt, Ahmadis will not stand in election for those reserved seats, but one or two might be able to stand for the general seats and win in areas where they are in large enough numbers. Recommend

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