LAHORE – Religious minorities, women, transgender and other marginalized sections of the society have demanded effective representation and participation in the overall political process, especially in the upcoming elections.

Awarding the representation to religious minorities in the Senate or merely increase of seats in the National and Provincial Assemblies will have little effect unless the issues of religious discrimination; hate and marginalization of the weaker segments of the society are not addressed and solved.

These demands were presented at a forum titled “Elections 2013: Effective Participation of Religious Minorities and other Marginalized Groups” held under the auspices of the Centre for Human Rights Education at Lahore Press Club on Friday and was participated by Human Rights Defenders from different parts of the country, transponders, students and members of civil society organizations.

Akram Masih Gill, State Minister for Interfaith Harmony was the Chief Guest while the speakers included Begum Zakia Shah Nawaz-Advisor to Chief Minister Punjab, Rana Aslam,-Deputy Director Election Commission Punjab, Ehsan Wain, General Secretary Awami National Party, Zaheer Abbas, Senior Vice President PTI, Naeem Shakir,-Member Central Executive Committee Awami Worker Party, Muhammad Tahseen, Director SAP-Pal(istan, Amna Ulfat, PML-Q, Farooq Tariq, Secretary General Awami Worker Party and Samson Salarnat, Director Centre for Human Rights Education Lahore.

The participants resolved that prior to the next general elections the political parties should clearly announce their policy to address the issues related to the protection and promotion of the rights of marginalized sections of the society.

For the protection and promotion of the rights of the religious minorities, the religious discrimination should he abolished from the Constitution, Laws and policies and hate material should be taken away from the syllabus.

The political parties should award main positions to the people belonging to religious minorities rather than just bringing them only in the minority wings and should also award party tickets on general seats to the candidate, rather than limiting them to special seats.

The electoral rolls should be error free, especially in the constituencies where the religious minorities are in minority. For the rights of women the parties should award tickets on general seats.