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Pakistan 2013 National Elections: Minority Seats Bought and Sold by Political Parties

3 May 2013

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The News (Pakistan)

‘Institutional discrimination against minorities increasing’

Shahid Husain

Friday, May 03, 2013

Karachi

The executive director of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler) said on Thursday that minorities in Pakistan were facing discrimination though they had equal rights under the constitution.

Karamat Ali made this observation while addressing a news conference at the Karachi Press Club on Thursday.

He was flanked by Dr Sonu Kanghrani of the Pakistan Dalit Solidarity Network, Zahid Farooq of the Urban Resource Centre, Avinash Hari of the UMID Organisation and social activist Dr Burma.

“First, they [the minorities] are citizens of Pakistan, then a minority,” Ali said. “But a situation has been created during the last two decades or so as if they are second-class citizens.” As a result, the minorities felt marginalised, he said.

He said that in the May 11 general elections, the minorities’ representation was inappropriate. Elaborating, he said, there were 342 National Assembly seats, out of which only 10 were reserved for the minorities. Similarly, he said, only four out of 104 Senate seats were allocated for the minority groups.

“The onslaught against non-Muslim minorities in Pakistan has been there since long. Now it has extended to Muslim minorities such as Hazaras and the Shia sect.

“The constitution should ensure equality for all Pakistani citizens. And if there is any ambiguity in its clauses, it should be removed.”

The Piler executive director noted that there were only 2.78 million registered voters within the minorities groups, major political parties had nominated 71 minorities’ members for the reserved seats and all were reportedly sold against donations.

He claimed that a few affluent individuals belonging to minorities had bought these seats worth 80 million rupees each. Hence one should not expect any empathy for minority issues in such a situation where parliament’s seats were bought and sold, he said.

Obviously, minorities would be deprived of actual representation in the electoral process, Ali said.

“The entire South Asia is divided on the basis of ethnicity. If minorities in Pakistan face aggression it leads to aggression against a minority in neighbouring country. It’s a chain reaction.”

Citing a study conducted by Piler in Sindh and Punjab, he said that as a result of increasing extremism and social discrimination against minorities, Pakistani society was losing its ability to tolerate diversity. The most alarming factor, he added, was religious discrimination in daily life because of faulty laws and policies.

There was “multi-dimensional discrimination” against the minorities in Pakistan, he said. Referring to curricula in Pakistan, he said, hatred was being preached against minorities at primary and secondary school level, and Islamiat had been made compulsory for non-Muslims.

The quota system had been introduced to ensure due rights for the minorities but this system was being exploited and used to keep the minorities out of the loop. “Worsening the law and order situation leads to militarisation and strengthening of jihadis in every country of South Asia.”

The colonial mindset still dominated Pakistan society, Ali said, adding that none of the political parties had awarded tickets to minority representatives. “Discrimination is being strengthened institutionally.”

In Karachi, he said, minorities were facing ever increasing violence, threats from extortions and land grabbers. “We appeal to all political parties to insert clauses in their manifestos that ensure minority rights, including right to education, housing and a decent living.”

He said contesting elections on general seats was not possible for low-income groups and the underprivileged. On the one hand, minorities were threatened by the majority, and on the other the caste system among Hindus had further pushed the schedule caste community towards marginalisation, he added.

Dr Sonu Kanghrani said caste system was deeply entrenched in the Hindu minority. The Bheel, Kohli and Dalits work either as farm labourers, bonded labourers, sweepers or cobblers.

He pointed out that the Founder of the Nation, Quaid-e-Azam, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, persuaded the minorities not to migrate after the creation of Pakistan. He stated they were equal citizens but things were going from bad to worse for them.

He said if discrimination against the schedule caste did not come to an end, time was not far away when there would be more forced conversions.

Zahid Farooq of the URC said every political party asked minorities to vote for them but sadly enough they refrained from talking about minorities’ representation.

The minorities were being discriminated in the separate electoral system, he said. But in the joint electoral system discrimination should come to and end and they should be given their due representation.

Avinash Hari said PPP leader Sharjeel Memon says if schedule caste people get elected they would influence policy. “If Dalits are in majority they should lead the minority Hindu community,” he said.

Dr Burma lamented that Hindu girls were being kidnapped and forced conversions going on in a great way. “We are inheritors of the 5,000-old Indus Civilization. We are Pakistanis; there is no proof that we are anti-state,” he said.

“An independent commission should be constituted. And our daughters should be allowed to return home.”

The speakers demanded that articles that ensure basic minority rights be implemented; the number of reserved seats for minorities be increased to bring them in proportion to the increasing population; state and political forces should ensure significant representation of the minorities; judges belonging to minority groups be given proper representation; laws against hate speeches be fully enforced; amendments in blasphemy laws be made by bringing changes in the procedure of reporting to stop misuse of this law; the provincial government’s effective and cooperative system be restored and minorities’ representation ensured; a fair census be conducted so that the number of reserved seats could be determined in proportion to the population; in jobs and official documentations, sections revealing religious identity be removed; police be made politically unbiased; the institution of police be designed to serve common people rather than those influential; hate literature that arouses sentiments against other religions be banned; appropriate steps be taken to stop forced conversions of females belonging to religious minorities; school syllabus containing hate literature content against other religions should be removed; syllabus be incorporated with literature that was based on ethics and dignity of human beings; and all political parties should guarantee minority rights in their respective policies on a priority basis.

o o o

Daily Times, May 03, 2013

‘Minority seats being traded by political parties’

Staff Report

KARACHI: Civil society organisations termed the minorities’ representation in upcoming general elections as inappropriate, further alleging that the reserved seats for minorities are being sold out at hefty prices to affluent individuals.

These views were expressed during a press conference by Dr Sonu Kangrani of Pakistan Dalit Solidarity Network, Zahid Farooq of Urban Resource Centre and others at Karachi Press Club (KPC), here on Thursday. The went on to explain that there are total 342 National Assembly seats, in which only 10 seats are reserved for minorities whereas only 4 out of 104 Senate seats are allocated for the minority groups.

The speakers informed that major political parties have nominated 71 minority members for the reserved seats and all seats are reportedly sold against donations. It has been learnt that a few affluent individuals belonging to minority groups have bought these seats at Rs 80 million each, they alleged. One should not expect any empathy for minority issues in such circumstances where parliaments’ seats are bought and sold, they added. In this way minorities will remain to be deprived of actual representation in the electoral process.

According to the Election Commission; there are only 2.78 million registered voters within the minority groups. The civil society leaders said that this discrimination and social imbalance towards minorities has been clearly visible in a study conducted by Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER). For the purpose of the study 50 interviews and four focused group discussions were conducted in Sindh and Punjab areas where minority representation is seen most.

This study revealed that as a result of the increasing extremism and social discrimination against minorities, Pakistani society is losing its ability to tolerate diversity. The most alarming factor is that this religious discrimination is prevalent in our daily lives because of faulty laws and policies. Though the constitution has provided basic rights to minorities, certain articles in the constitution impose conditions on them that affect their religious freedom directly or indirectly, the study said. Inclusion of contradictory terms in the Constitutional provisions of Pakistan has not only strengthened the religious discrimination but also enabled to misuse laws.

The study further said that state has remained ignorant towards the personal laws of minorities. In the absence of these laws minority women are deprived of all those rights that are provided to the women in developed and democratic countries. Educational system too has a clear discrimination against religious minorities, the report said. Islamiat subject is made compulsory for non-Muslims; minorities are not given admissions in prestigious and technical institutions on merit, they alleged.

Quota system had been introduced to provide their due rights but this system has been exploited and is used to keep minorities out of merit seats. Discrimination in the housing provision has also surfaced as a major issue. In Karachi, minority areas are facing ever increasing forced allowance, violence, threats and extortions. However, on the basis of ethnicity a non-Muslim being confined to a particular locality is not a something new.

On the bases of religion, colonisation trend is increasing amongst middle and upper classes. Situation of election on general seats does not allow the poor and underprivileged to take part in it. On one side minorities are threatened by majority, on the other hand caste system amongst Hindus such as the scheduled caste has further pushed the community towards marginalisation. In order to retain this dominance their voices are suppressed, which results in an increase in inferiority complex.

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