MIRPUR (AJK)

A delegation of senior leadership of Pakistan United Christian Movement (PUCM) headed by its Chairman A David called on newly-appointed Chief Election Commissioner of Pakistan and shared their suggestion for electoral reforms.

According to a press release issued here, the PUCM delegation felicitated the Election Commissioner on assuming the office. On the occasion, the PUCM delegates expressed support for the electoral reforms and stressed that the reforms were vital to strengthen democratic institutions and processes in the country.

The delegation apprised the Election Commissioner of the concerns of religious minorities regarding the electoral system and lack of their representatives’ access to the legislative bodies both in National and Provincial assemblies. It was recommended that the non-Muslim Pakistanis should be allowed to exercise their constitutional right of franchise, to elect their own representatives.

The delegation stressed that the current system for representatives of religious minorities was contrary to Article 226 of the Constitution of Pakistan. The reserved seats for minorities (and women) are filled by a priority list for the candidates submitted by respective parties to the Election Commission in advance.

The concern is that this process is centralized, not participatory. The delegation emphasised that the number of general seats in National and Provincial assemblies was increased in 2002; but the reserved seats for Non-Muslims have not been increased since 1985. This is a severe political and electoral discrimination.

The PUCM strongly suggested increase in the number of seats for Christian community in the National and provincial assemblies by the ratio of 5%. The issue of census was also discussed and the delegation observed that free and impartial census held immediately could ensure precise number of allocated seats for religious minorities, which should be allocated to different religious groups according to their population.

The PUCM delegation also stressed the need for representation for Non-Muslim Pakistani women in the National and provincial legislative assemblies. The parliamentary committee working on electoral reforms (2014) lacks representation of the religious minorities and other marginalized sections.

There is a danger that the process of electoral reforms might not pay enough attention to the concern of Non-Muslim Pakistanis. The delegation suggested that representatives from registered political parties of non-Muslims and civil society organizations should be included in the process, the press release added.