Constitutional guarantees: Minorities face many layers of discrimination
PESHAWAR: Members of minority communities continue to face multi-layered discrimination even though Pakistan’s Constitution guarantees equal rights to all citizens with many of them living as second-class citizens.
While claims are made at official level that religious minorities are given every facility in the country, the reality is different: Most non-Muslims living in Pakistan are low-wage earners. They are unable to get education because of poverty, same is true about health facilities.
Religious minorities in Pakistan are not even allowed to elect their representatives in direct polls.
Their representatives in the National Assembly or provincial assemblies are not elected but are nominated on special seats by political parties.
In Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Assembly, only two members represent hundreds of thousands of people belonging to various religious minorities – JUI-F‘s Askar Pervaiz and PML-N’s Fredrick Azeem Ghouri.
Although they are responsible for outlining and executing development schemes, their performance has remained poor since they were selected in April of 2013. Members of various minority groups often complain about their invisibility.
According to the K-P Assembly’s website Askar Pervaiz, who belongs to the Christian community, is a member of standing committees on revenue, industries and technical education and Hajj, Auqaf and minorities affairs.
Since his nomination, he did not table any bill or raised any question over the past three and a half years. He also has not moved any privilege or adjournment motion.
Fredrick Azeem Ghouri
The K-P Assembly’s website states that Ghouri is a member of standing committees on inter-provincial coordination, local government, elections and rural development and Auqaf, Hajj, religious and minorities affairs. He also has not presented any bill, raised any question or submitted any adjournment motion.
Their performance creates doubts over the proportionate representation system.
When this correspondent asked Askar Pervaiz about his performance, he said that he tried to speak in the provincial assembly, but the speaker had not allowed him enough time.
The government, he said, was reluctant to assign them funds to spend on minority communities.
According to him, the government did all this just because he belonged to the opposition.
Fredrick Azeem Ghouri also complained about insufficient time to speak on minority affairs, adding that neither of them was provided with any development budget over the past two years.
Members of religious minorities living in K-P have been insisting for a separate electorate system for electing their representatives. They believe that this is the only way they can hold their representatives accountable.
Haroon Sarbdiyal, a minority rights activist, said: “We demand a system through which we can hold a person accountable to us, instead of their party heads. Minority MPAs just try to appease their party heads, instead of their constituents.”
Augustine Jacob, a Christian community member, said: “When someone is elected via votes, he or she remains answerable to the community because they realise that if they did not perform, their community would not re-elect them.”
According to the clause E of section 6 of the Article 51 “Members to the seats reserved for non-Muslims shall be elected in with law through proportional representation system of political parties’ lists of candidates on the basis of total number of general seats won by each political party in the National Assembly:
Advocate Shaukat Ghulam, a high court lawyer, said that the relevant law should be amended to provide the religious minorities their basic right to send their elected representatives to legislature.