04/27/2018, 10.39
PAKISTAN
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Christians warn: few candidates in July elections

by Kamran Chaudhry

The minority political parties launch the "election, not selection" campaign. Criticisms of the system for selecting candidates for minorities, which are chosen by Muslim parties.

Lahore (AsiaNews) - Christians in Pakistan are afraid of not being adequately represented in the next general elections, which will take place on July 15, 2018. For this reason, some minority parties and movements have launched a campaign entitled "Election, not selection" and asked for an increase in seats reserved for religious minorities.

The initiative was presented in Lahore on 21 April. The speakers criticized the current system of selection of candidates, which provides that Muslim political parties also choose the representatives of minority communities.

About 3 million minority voters (including 1.32 million Christians) can only elect local representation in the national and provincial assemblies. Reserved seats are equal to slavery, said Sajid Ishaq Chairman Pakistan Interfaith League PIL, a Christian political party.

"The selected representatives are busy pleasing the top leadership of political parties and have no roots in the community. Even the election reforms committee had no non-Muslim parliamentarians. Meet our demands if you are serious in protecting our rights."

Pakistan Catholic Bishops' Conference made a similar demand last year after its Second Plenary Annual Meeting in November. "We feel that the current electoral system for minority candidates being appointed by political parties on reserved seats does not represent the community and so we urge the Government to create a just and fair system", they stated in a press release.

In view of the general elections, the Electoral Commission has announced the distribution [of seats] for the districts, the agencies, the Tribal Areas administered at the federal level (Fata), the Territory of the capital Islamabad and the provincial assemblies. The breakdowns were allocated based on the results of the 2017 census.

However, Christians complain that, to date, the numbers relating to non-Muslims have not yet been released. Out of a total of 342 seats in the National Assembly (Parliament), only 10 places are left for minorities. Ishaq points out that "since 1998 the population has grown by 63% [from more than 132 to over 207 million inhabitants, ed], but the seats reserved for minorities have remained unchanged". Samson Salamat, head of the Rwadari Tehreek Movement, asks the provincial governments to organize a conference of all the parties and start a process of consultation of minorities. "We need - he says - both long and short-term policies for the protection of minorities. Religious and social leaders must unite to coordinate efforts and raise thier voices."

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