Saturday August 13, 2022

Christian community campaigns for right to elect, not ‘select’

December 14, 2016

Elder Salamat Bhatti, a central leader of the Masihi Awami Party, a political party representing Pakistan’s Christian community, is campaigning across the country for the non-Muslim communities’ democratic right to directly vote for their candidates.

“We want election, not selection,” said Bhatti, who came from the Gujranwala district of Punjab to a gathering in Essa Nagri, a Christian-populated neighbourhood.

“And for this purpose, we will pressure the political parties having representation in parliament into reviving the separate electorate system for non-Muslim communities in the country.”

Until 1999, when former military chief Pervez Musharaf overthrew Nawaz Sharif’s government, non-Muslims had dual voting rights in the general elections that allowed them to not only vote for Muslim candidates on general seats, but also for their own non-Muslim candidates.

But now in the general elections, non-Muslims candidate cannot be elected through direct voting.

“Now we, the non Muslim communities, are totally dependent on the Muslim leadership of the mainstream political parties. They select a non-Muslim on the reserved seats for minorities, depriving non-Muslims in the entire country of the right to elect their own candidates,” Bhatti told The News.

He said he visit met with several political parties in Karachi, including the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, and is planning to include groups of other faiths into his party including Hindus and Sikh to launch a joint campaign.

Posters demanding the right of directing voting have been put up on the walls of Christian neighbourhoods.  

“We have expedited our efforts as we want the direct voting system revived in the 2018 general polls,” he said.

After the abolishment of the separate electorate system, now non-Muslim individuals are compelled to join Muslim-dominated political parties, and even Islamist parties, only to obtain tickets for reserved seats, be it the general elections or the local government polls.

“In the general elections, wealthy and influential non-Muslim individuals buy tickets for theses slots from the parties. These individuals aren’t bothered about addressing the issues of non-Muslim communities and their neighbourhoods,” Bhatti said.

“The people who occupy these seats have neither any links with the communities nor are aware about their issues, he added.