Christian’s minority candidates are sidelined again in 2013. By Shamim Masih

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One major flaw in existing of the Election system in Pakistan that minorities and women seats are left at the mercy of political parties. The way these seats have been filled in the past and now when the priority lists were submitted to the Election Commission of Pakistan - ECP by the parties. Members of the minorities and women workers have started raising their voice against the arbitrary mechanisms adopted by the main stream political parties, like PML-N and PPPP.
The filling of reserved seats for non-Muslims in the National Assembly and provincial assemblies turned out to be a discretionary exercise by high-ups of political parties and Christians remained secondary priority in the national assembly list submitted. Several candidates of the different parties were seen complaining about the priority lists submitted by their respective parties.
Before the election 2013, all political parties that were hopeful of winning seats in the elections have submitted lists of their nominees for reserved seats for minorities to the Election Commission of Pakistan. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) had submitted the longest list of 22 candidates for 10 reserved seats.
Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians – PPPP has submitted 12 names, while PML-Q and MQM have nominated five candidates each. Jamat-e-Islami also submitted a determined list of 10 candidates while PML-N list covers of eight names.
The lists submitted by the parties have fallen like a bombshell on Christian community as none of the Christian candidate is on the top priority from any political party. Every political party has given priority to Hindu candidates. In the last National Assembly, there were two Christian’s candidates out of 10 reserved seats.
Pakistan United Christian Movement - PUCM chief has shown his concern about the top priority given to the Hindu minority. Chairman PUCM while expressing his concern has said that "we have become a minority among the minorities". It is time for Christians to unite and get recognized as a political force.
The reserved seats of minorities in the provincial assemblies, political parties file similar lists to the provincial election commissioners. These seats are allocated to political parties with the same formula in accordance with the number of general seats they win.
The system is nothing but big fraud with the minorities especially Christians. In the past, the minority’s candidates come through direct election on basis of separate electorate due to which their importance had increased but now they don’t have interest neither in community nor in politics. Instead they work hard with the party candidate to win their respective seats.
There is no bar on non-Muslims from taking part in elections on general/directly elected seats, but very few opt for this option. Pakistan United Christian Movement – PUCM and Christian Progressive Movement - CPM have launched their candidates to contest on few general seats.
Albert David chairman PUCM before fielding candidates on two national and 3 provincial assembly seats said, no matter we win or lose, PUCM will contest to highlight the issue of electoral rights of Non-Muslim Pakistanis. He termed the existing selection system as a blatant violation of Article 224 of the Constitution of Pakistan. In a post election message he congratulated all Non-Muslim Candidates, 84 in total, who contested on general seats for their courage for participating in the most important political process, elections and standing for their political rights.
Julius Salik ex-federal minister fielded as an independent candidate and scored 5038 in NA – 48 Islamabad capital seat.
In the past NA, only two Christian’s candidates were seen out of ten, rests were Hindus. The existing system was introduced by former military ruler Gen. (R) Parvez Musharraf in 2002 by amending the constitution through his famous Legal Frame work Order 2002 – LFO. These seats have to be filled through mechanism of indirect elections of proportional representation on the basis of priority lists of candidates to be submitted by the political parties. It is clearly declare that these candidates will remain close to their respective party not to the community.
Civil society groups and Christian political parties like Pakistan United Christian Movement- PUCM, All Pakistan Christian League – APCL, and Pakistan Christian Congress – PCC have demand that unless these seats are filled through direct election the purpose of reserved seats would not be served. The said party’s leaders have shown their concern about the top priority given to the Hindu community.

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