HRCP wants minorities to have same rights as majority
KARACHI: After May 11, 2013, the elections and electoral process has become a very touchy topic for many. It drives them to protest and hold sit-ins in the country’s capital.
To understand, explain and propose changes in the country’s electoral procedures, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) held an event on Friday. The commission claimed that it was important for minorities to receive the same rights and treatment as the majority.
Suggesting that they follow a universal suffrage, HRCP director Hussain Naqi recommended that Ahmadis should be included in the joint electoral rolls, rather than being placed in separate rolls.
The commission also suggested that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) should be made into a permanent institution with its own staff and an administrative chief – more like a civil service, rather than calling in judicial officers for a temporary period.
Members of major political parties, minority rights organisations and the civil society discussed and agreed upon all the proposals presented by the HRCP. They discussed issues, including electoral lists, a woman’s freedom to vote and election contests problems the minorities have to face due to the country’s electoral system.
Former MPA Michael Javed stressed on the need to change the bourgeois culture within certain political parties. “Political parties should get their minority candidates elected from Muslim-majority constituencies. This will change peoples mindsets,” said Javed. “Even in the assemblies, the minorities are silenced because of a lack of representation.”
While discussing Javed’s statement, it was learned that Sikhs, Parsis and some other minorities had no representation in any of the provincial assemblies. They also talked about how scheduled castes should be given representation in the national and provincial assemblies.
Women and voting
According to the HRCP director, female legislators were performing much better than their male counterparts despite their low numbers. He stressed on a woman’s right to vote and contest elections.
Naqi suggested that in constituencies where women participation during the polls was less than 20 per cent, should have re-elections. He also presented the commission’s recommendation that in constituencies where women were not allowed to vote in election should be termed ‘null and void.’
Participants at the event suggested that women should be given at least 30 per cent representation in the assemblies. At the end, they suggested that women and minorities should be given a specific quota and a certain criteria should be set for reserved seats.
One of the participants claimed that since 1998, Pakistan has had no census and the population count was just a rough estimate. “The delimitation process without its core has become a tool for election rigging,” he said.
Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s Irum Azeem Farooque claimed that none of these problems would be solved till a new census was carried out. Columnist Muqtada Mansoor said that it had been so long since the population survey was carried out that the delimitation process had become rather unnatural.
The commission suggested that the ECP should keep an eye on the polling process and through ‘secret observers’ and take action against reports of misconduct. They said that the state should bear the electioneering expenses of the candidates as it is done in countries, such as Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.
Some participants suggested that political parties should run election campaigns of their candidates through party funding. They claimed that taking money from businessmen and other financers could lead to nepotism and encourage corruption.