PESHAWAR: Ranjeet Singh is the first minority lawmaker belonging to the Sikh community in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to be elected MPA on the ticket of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) and Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA).
The other two newly elected non-Muslim MPAs are Ravi Kumar, a Hindu, and Wazirzada hailing from the Kalash community in Chitral. Both are affiliated to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).
The three lawmakers represent the minorities in the 124-member Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly. From their appearance they looked different from their Muslim colleagues at the recent maiden session of the provincial assembly as they were attired in their cultural and religious costumes.
Wearing the Sikh turban, Ranjeet Singh said he was the first Sikh elected on JUI-F quota to the provincial assembly. Ranjeet Singh, who is the father of three children, is a cloth merchant in Kohat city and had been associated with the JUI-F for 10 years.
“I am indebted to Maulana Fazlur Rehman for putting me ahead of all other candidates in MMA’s list for minorities,” he said. He added that he wanted to build Shamshan Ghat for Hindu and Sikh communities as there was no separate place for performing last rituals of the Hindus and Sikhs.
Wazirzada, 34, is the first person from Kalash community who made it to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly.He did his masters in Political Science from the University of Peshawar in 2010.
“We have a small community living in the three Kalash valleys of Chitral since long, but our religion and culture are yet to be recognised in Pakistan,” he said. He pointed out that the Kalash community had no separate column in the census form.
Before coming into politics, Wazirzada served his community as a social worker in different projects. He said the Kalash valleys of Bumburet, Rumbur and Birir lacked roads, schools and hospitals.
“We have a population of about 4,000 individuals. We are proud of our centuries-old culture and religion,” he maintained. Ravi Kumar belongs to a Hindu political family in Mardan. He had served as an advisor to the former chief minister for minorities’ rights.
His father Bahari Lal was associated with Pakistan People’s Party and Awami National Party and was elected twice to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly on the reserved seats for minorities.
“I joined politics of my own choice. I even left my studies at the Khyber Medical College in Peshawar after my father’s death in 2005 to do politics,” he said. “My father wanted me to become a politician,” he added.
He said his family joined the PTI before the 2013 general election. He pointed out that his name was on third place in his party’s priority list given to the Election Commission of Pakistan for minority seats in 2013, but he couldn’t become an MPA. This time, he added, he was elected band had got a chance to serve his people.
Ravi Kumar claimed that the previous PTI-led government in KP raised the minorities’ quota in government jobs from 0.5 percent to 3 percent and it had been considering increasing the quota for minority students in professional colleges of the province.