Pakistan election: Bishop Shukardin laments Christians’ lack of representation
by Shafique Khokhar

A day before the vote, the bishop of Hyderabad and chairman of the Bishops' Conference offers his analysis. “Christians should form a national party,” he says, noting that “no party can achieve a majority.” He prays for “economic stability” and urges fellow Pakistanis to “respect differences”. In a country where poverty is increasing, “without women we cannot hope for a better economic future.”

Hyderabad (AsiaNews) – Pakistanis go to the polls tomorrow in what has proven to be a tough election with violence marring the last day before the vote with two attacks in Pishin and Qila Saifullah (Balochistan) that left 28 people dead and at least 40 wounded.

From his prison cell, former Prime Minister Imran Khan had his party broadcast a pre-recorded message inviting his followers to go and vote.

Against such a background, what do these elections represent for Christians in Pakistan? AsiaNews spoke to Bishop Samson Shukardin of Hyderabad, who also chairs the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Pakistan (CNCP), to get his thoughts.

What do you think about the upcoming elections in Pakistan?

I think that the elections are very important and essential for the growth of our country. I wish the elections can be transparent and once over, people can come forward to fulfil the needs of the country. Right now, it seems that no party can achieve a majority. I see a coalition government after the elections.

Do you think the representation of the Christian community is good in the elections?

No, I totally disagree with the way Christians are represented because candidates are chosen by political parties, not by Christians. So many voters have not been registered; otherwise, we would have a large number of voters in certain constituencies. I truly believe that this is our mistake because our people are still unaware of their rights and duties as citizens.

What kind of representation do you think is favourable for the Christians?

We need good candidates who can serve our community. There are at least 20 constituencies in which we have many voters and can win general seats if we are put on a party ticket. I think Christians should form a national party, which can lead us in the political process.

Do you have any reservations on the joint electoral system?

I am totally in favour of the joint electoral system. I think Christians should be allowed to cast dual votes, one for party candidates and one for their own Christian candidates in the constituencies where we have a good number of voters.

Do you know that the Pakistan Peoples Party has put a Christian candidate, Naeem Gill, on a ticket for a general seat in Warispura, Faisalabad (where Christians are largely employed as sanitation workers)?

That’s great. That’s what I am asking for; this is really a good sign, and I totally appreciate this step taken by the PPP. Other parties should also follow this and put Christian candidates on their ticket so that they can contest general seats and sit in the houses with dignity.

Anything you want to add? Hopes for tomorrow and its outcome?

I am a religious, not a political leader. One thing I really wish and pray for is economic stability for my country, given the rising poverty. Half of the population is women; without their empowerment, our country cannot become progressive; without women we cannot hope for a better economic future.

I pray and wish that tomorrow’s elections will be peaceful. We should all accept each other and respect differences.