LAHORE: Elected representatives of religious minorities in the local government system from several districts of Punjab today demanded direct elections for minority representatives in all tiers of government. 

This was their main recommendation at the concluding session of a two-day workshop on “minorities' participation in local government” organized by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, said a statement issued here.

Recently elected minority counselors from Bahawalpur, Rahim Yar Khan, Lahore and Sargodha participated in the workshop. They further recommended that all powers presently with the district coordination officer should be immediately transferred to the district chairman for the effective functioning of the local government.

They also advised that for smooth working of the local government and better cooperation among the different tiers of government, political parties should make it mandatory for their MPAs and MNAs to hold regular consultations with the local government representatives from religious minorities at the district level party secretariats and document all recommendations.

Quoting difficulties that the minorities face due to lack of graveyards and worship places, they recommended that the local government should have the authority to allocate worship and burial spaces to the minorities at the district level. In addition to that, they demanded that minority worship places in illegal possession should be retrieved without delay.

Talking about the problems minorities face in getting welfare funds, they recommended that the district welfare institutions such as the Bait ul Maal committee should disburse funds in consultation with the minority representatives in the local government so that these communities also have access to welfare funds.