I, the undersigned Nazir S Bhatti, Chief of Pakistan Christian Congress and Editor of Pakistan Christian Post wish to bring facts about election system and religious freedom issues faced by 15 million Christians in Pakistan.
The comments by His Holiness on occasion of accepting credentials of Ayesha Riyaz as ambassador to Vatican from Pakistan, expressing satisfaction on Joint Electorate system for minorities has hurt the feeling of General Pakistani Christian as they never demanded Joint Elections but it was imposed by the regime in 2002.
It's on record that incidents of Christian persecution have escalated after imposition of joint elections by government of Pakistan since 2002. The priests have been gunned downed, Pastors have been brutally murdered, Christian women have been raped, elders have been harassed, churches have been desecrated, worshipers have been martyred, hospitals and schools have been attacked but no motion have been presented in National Assembly of Pakistan by the adopted Christian representatives on reserved seats by the Muslim political parties under joint election system.
Whereas Christian representatives elected by Christian votes under Separate election rose voice in house on every incident of human rights violation of Christians in Pakistan. The Christian parliamentarians elected under Separated elections utilized government allocated yearly development funds on construction of worship places in far flung areas of Pakistan in more numbers than foreign missionaries and non government organizations in past fifty years. The construction of roads, streets walks, drainage system and electric facilities changed the shape of Christian slum areas from 1985 to 2000 during practice of separate elections in Pakistan.
The Christian youth enjoyed rights on grades 16 jobs in government and semi government establishments on quota of Christian representative elected through separate elections and Christian students got admissions in medical colleges, engineering colleges and other higher academic institutions.
More over the Christians elected under separate elections read Holy Bible in House and offered prayers before expressing Christian issues to witness Lord Jesus Christ among Muslim law makers in Pakistan.
What Joint election has given us? Nothing!
House of parliament is silent on Christian victimization now!
The Christian parliamentarians in house selected by majority political parties have no courage to speak in house without permission of their Muslim party leaders!
The Joint elections have put complete silence in house on Christian persecution!
There is no development budget for selected Christian parliamentarians!
There is quota of jobs!
There is no quota of seats in professional colleges for Christian students!
While Muslim parliamentarians have all such privileges!!!
Few Christian leaders working as agents of establishment and government agencies hatched a conspiracy against Separate Electorate. They were provided with opportunities to speak on national and international forums against separate election system. They tried to prove that blasphemy laws and all other discriminatory laws are due to practice of Separate electorate in Pakistan. They even never hesitated to say that separate elections have made Christians to be second class citizens in Pakistan and misled international community on separate elections.
But, such elements never dared to speak truth and against provisions of Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan of 1973 which declare Christian a second or third class citizen such as:
Articles 41 (2), that an adult Muslim can only hold office of President of Pakistan.
Article 51(A), a total denial on representation proportional to population of minorities on allocation of seats in national assembly of Pakistan when house of 342 seats unjustified with classification of 272 general seats for Muslim men and women, 60 reserved seats for only Muslim women and only 10 seats for Christians, Hindus, Ahmedi Muslims and other religious minorities.
Article 203(D), to bar Christian advocates to plead in Federal Shariat Courts of Pakistan.
Article 42, a schedule of Oath of President of Pakistan to declare him a Muslim.
Article 91(4), a schedule of Oath for Prime Minster of Pakistan to declare himself a Muslim.
Article 227, Islamic Provisions in Constitution.
Moreover the adoption of Objective Resolution as preamble of Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan of 1973 by president order no 14 of 1985 is clear declaration that Pakistan is a state of only Muslims which confirms Christians to be second class citizens.
The Christian elements that issued welcome statements and arranged prayers on January 16, 2002, when Martial Law Administrator General Pervaiz Mushraff abolished Separate Electorate and introduced Joint Electorate are same who welcomed Shariat Bill of General Zia-Ul- Haq. These Christian are those who were rejected by Christian voters in separate elections.
The Christians are 13% of total population of Pakistan who are living under poverty line. In rural areas, they are working on agricultural farms of Muslim Land Lords and in urban areas as sanitary workers in municipal corporations. The Muslims majority hates to eat and drink with Christians and treats them as untouchables.
The poor Christians have bitter experiences of voting against instructions of land lords in Joint elections from 1956 to 1985. Their cattle were stopped to feed on fields of Muslim lands lords and grain sale was refused to Christian families to forced them starvation after elections as punishment on voting against influential Muslim feudal lords directives. The worst incident of rape and disrespect of women and elders are also on record in rural and urban areas through out Pakistan after every election of Local Bodies and Parliament under joint elections.
The Christians has enjoyed Separate Elections since 1947, until abandoned in 'Constitution of Pakistan" of 1956. Therefore it remained an outstanding demand of Christians to revive Separate Elections system for minorities for decades until it was re-enforced on January 10, 1985
Apart from these election procedures the dual voting system is also allowed for Kashmiri Muslims. To define the joint elections, it means elections when Christians and other religious minorities vote for Muslim candidates in their respective constituencies of national assembly and provincial assemblies and Muslims political parties adopt and nominate Christians on reserved seats in parliament under Seventh Amendment of 2003 in Constitution of Islamic republic of Pakistan.
But Separate elections are elections when minorities elect their representatives by their votes on reserved seats in parliament under Eighth Amendment in Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan of 1985.
There are 60 Muslim women seats reserved in parliament but minority women have no right of nomination on those seats nor any Muslim political party have ever nominated minority women on these reserved seats in joint elections whereas minority women have contested on reserve seats for minorities under separate elections.
There is third election known as Dual Voting system being practiced by Kashmiri Muslims in Pakistan. The Kashmiri Muslims living in Azad Kashmir territory cast their votes for Azad Kashmir Assembly and Kashmiri living in Pakistan elect Kashmir Assembly members on reserve seats from all over Pakistan and also cast votes to elect National Assembly of Pakistan and Provincial Assemblies of Pakistan candidates in their respective constituencies.
To understand the importance of Separate Electorate in Sub-continent of India, we witness that Separate Electorate was introduced by the Morley-Minto Reforms of 1909 duly recognized by the Montagu-Chelmsford Report of 1919 and further extended by the government of India Act of 1935 by British Colonial rule in Sub-continent of India on demand of Indian Muslim minority.
The Muslim minority ruled India for more than 200 years under Mughal kingdom but insisted on demand of separate elections. The delegation of Muslim leaders headed by Agha Khan called upon Lord Minto in October 1906 in Simla and presented memorandum pleading safeguard of Muslim interests under introduction of Separate Elections in India. The Muslims enjoyed separate elections from 1909 to 1946.
The Indian National Congress also recommended Separate Electorate for other religious groups under Poona Pact of 1932. The most important part of Separate Electorate introduced by British rulers was contesting elections on general seats as well as reserved seats for Muslims and other religious minorities in Local Bodies and Legislative assemblies.
The founder of Pakistan Quaid E Azam, Mohammad Ali Jinnah also demanded separate Electorate in his famous fourteen point doctrine in 1929 for minorities. In a meeting of All India Muslim League on March 28, 1929, M A Jinnah confirmed that positive aspect of Separate Electorate have resulted in unity of divided Muslim groups in India.
The Christian leaders supported All India Muslim League in Round Table Conferences held in London from 1930 â€“ 1933, and forced M A Jinnah to assure minorities social, cultural, political and religious freedoms in Pakistan Resolution in 1940. The Christian leaders supporting Pakistan Movement and formation of Pakistan demanded Separate Electorates and received singed declaration to practice Separate Electorate in Pakistan with Founder of Pakistan.
During practice of Separate Electorate Christians also demanded Dual voting rights like Muslims of Azad Kashmir in Pakistan and they still press upon government for dual voting rights to Christian that they may elect their own representatives and may also vote for Muslim candidates in respective constituencies.
In the light of above mentioned facts, we hope that His Excellency shall review your comments about Joint Electorate system for minorities in Pakistan. We also wish to bring in your kind notice that Bishops Conference of Catholic Church in Pakistan has played a role to end Separate Electorates which will be ever marked as action against interests of general Christians in Pakistan. The participation of Catholic Bishops in press conferences of Christian agents of establishment in Lahore, Faisalabad, Karachi and Islamabad are surprising for general Christians of Pakistan and we appeal His Excellency to issue directives to Catholic Church in Pakistan to stay away from political statements and let Christian leaders to decide political issues.
Religious Freedom of Christians in Pakistan in under constant threat by fundamental Muslim elements and involvement of Churches in political issue shall worsen conditions. We request that instead of political issues Churches must initiate Christian-Muslim dialogue effectively which are being ignored.
The Christians of Pakistan wish to submit that Joint Elections are not acceptable to them on any level and they strongly protest against implementations of joint elections and demand Dual Voting rights with Separate Electorate. The Christians condemn all provisions of Constitution of Pakistan declaring them second class citizen because they are son of soil and reserve equal rights in resources of Pakistan. The Christians challenge government to hold referendum on joint elections to know true voice of general Christians.
Dr. Nazir S Bhatti
Chief, Pakistan Christian Congress
Editor, Pakistan Christian Post
Dated: June 4, 2007.