Reservation on reserved seats in Pakistan parliament. By Kashif Nawab

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Since the inception of the country, there has been a confusion regarding the electoral system of Pakistan. We are undecided whether there should be separate elections or combined. These both options have been seen with reservation by different quarters.

An option adopted was that selected or reserved seat for minorities was introduced but this did not do any good to the minorities.

Such candidates show loyalty to the political party they belong to and are not much concerned about their community because they have not come through vote. Besides, they cannot go against their party decision even if they have to ignore their own community’s concerns. On the other hand, the community itself does not claim candidate selected on reserved seat to be their true leader. Selected candidates do not go hand-in-hand with other minority parliamentarians and work in silos. Hence minority parliamentarians cannot raise their voice or exert pressure on the ruling party/government for the well-being of their community, says Siddique John, Admin  Minority Rights  Watch based in Lahore.

In this context there have been some developments that need mention here. Aamir Naveed Jiva, Member National Assembly, PPP says that he presented a bill in the National Assembly to increase minority seats both in National and Provincial Assemblies. He adds that two times the reserved seats for women and general seats in both the National and Provincial Assembly have been increased but the number of minority seats have remained the same.

When there were 20 reserved seats for women in the National Assembly there were 10 seats for minorities. Today 20 reserved seats for women have been increased to 60 but minority seats still stand at 10. This means women seats have increased by 200 per cent.  Jiva says the minority population has increased by 277 per cent between 1973 and 2020 but their seats have remained the same. If this increase is taken into consideration, he says, minority seats must be increased by 100 per cent.

Shireen Aslam, Human Rights Activist and Member of South Asia Women Alliance (SAWA) says that women population has increased over this time due to which women seats were increased, thus women from minorities must also be given share in women’s seats. She adds there is no transgender or disable seat, so there must be few reserve seats in National and Provincial Assemblies for these marginalized people as well.

“I wonder why government ignores them. They are human beings as well as Pakistanis and must be treated with respect and must be given value at all levels of walk.” She says there are 42 constituencies-both National and Provisional-where minority population is between 10 per cent to 50 per cent and suggests that the election commission must bound political parties to field representative of minorities on general seats here. This way the minorities may come into main stream, she adds

Samson Salamat, Director, Centre for Human Rights Education said the current system of proportional representation of minorities in the parliament is completely un-democratic and is not election but a selection done by the political parties, which means selected will only vote and talk in favour of his/her party and not the community. He says it is time for minorities to boycott the current system and demand for effective representation where they can exercise their right to elect their own representatives. The best scenario can be to increase the seats of minorities; constituencies may be established division wise for minority seats with direct elections which could be effective and reliable. Once minority seats are elected this way they will have voice and strength and be responsible towards the community directly.

Riaz Anjum, Advocate High Court and Chairman Pakistan Christian Movement says election is the spirit of democracy and not selection. “Only slaves and foreigners have no right to vote or take part in election.” He says it has been over 18 years since the joint election  and no increase in the seats of minority as compared to women’s reserve seats. I demand proportional increase in the number of minority seats and election on constituency-ground. This way the community will be able to choose their political leaders directly and make them accountable if they fail to deliver.

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