08/29/2011, 00.00
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For the first time, religious minorities to be represented in the Pakistani Senate

Punjab, Sindh, Baluchistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will each get one seat. Until now, only Muslim scholars and women had reserved seats. For the first time, non-Muslims will sit in the upper house. Christian leader calls for greater minority representation in the National Assembly and the abolition of discriminatory laws.
Islamabad (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Pakistani Senate will now set aside four seats for the country’s religious minorities. Each province, Punjab(where Christian are the largest group), Sindh, Baluchistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will get one. Hence, for the first time in the nation’s history, non-Muslims will be represented in the upper house of parliament. The new law is set to come into effect as early as the next Senate elections scheduled for March 2012.

Non-Muslims have not sat in the upper house for the past 38 years, but things will change thanks to the 18th Amendments t the constitution, pushed by the country’s minorities and backed by wide sectors of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). Until now, only Muslim scholars, women and technocrats had reserved seats.

Anjum James Paul, a Christian teacher and president of the Pakistan Minorities Teachers' Association (PMTA), wrote to President Asif Ali Zardari to express his gratitude for the law.

In his letter, the activist, who is also the director of SHADOW, mentioned “our martyrs”, Benazir Bhutto (former prime minister and Zardari’s wife who was slain in 2007), and Shahbaz Bhatti, the Catholic Minorities Minister. Both “always supported the cause of marginalised communities in Pakistan and gave their lives for the cause.”

"We salute our martyrs and the government of Pakistan People’s Party, which has somehow addressed the wounds of the minorities,” the letter said.

In concluding, the letter made an additional “humble request” on behalf of minorities, namely “to increase the number of reserved seats in the National Assembly of Pakistan” and “abolish all discriminatory articles and laws so that all Pakistanis may enjoy equal rights” and thus contribute to the glory of the nation.
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