Source: Agenzia Fides – MIL OSI
Headline: ASIA/PAKISTAN – Civil society groups call for inclusive census and electoral reform
Karachi – “Confidence in a new population census can only be based on adequate preparation and participatory responsibility to guarantee a rapid, transparent and credible census. The results of the 6th census carried out in 2017 were disputed by various stakeholders and are therefore not useful for comparative analysis. The census results showed a significant loss of religious diversity in Pakistan”. This was stated by Peter Jacob, a lay Catholic and Executive Director of the “Center for Social Justice” , at a gathering of civil society members in Karachi in recent days. The CSJ organized a seminar attended by civil society groups, including the Provincial Assemblies, political leaders and workers, human rights and minority rights activists. Jacob then addressed the issue of the current electoral system and said: “Demanding the return of an electoral system divided according to religious affiliation is unacceptable, because such a system has in the past created a religious division in society. On the other hand, proportional representation in a mixed electorate is a better system, which has proven capable of creating links between the candidates and the electorate, thus helping to improve the conception and perception of “minorities”. He explained to Fides: “The separate electorate system, introduced for religious minorities in Pakistan in the early 1980s, did not allow them to vote for candidates with a different religious identity. The separation of the electorate for religious reasons created divisions between citizens and introduced apartheid in the political system between religious communities. In 2002, after a long struggle for a common electorate, the modality of the separate electorate was replaced by a system of representation which allows political parties to nominate representatives of religious minorities in seats reserved for minorities and women; and, on the other hand, allows the minority electorate to vote for candidates who go beyond their “identity religious”. The participants decided to appeal to the Parliamentary Commission formed for electoral reform in order to eliminate religious and gender discrimination in the election of political representatives. Jaipal Chabbria, member of the National Commission for Minorities, said: “We still do not know what the electoral system is for religious minorities. Electoral reform is urgently needed to improve the capacity of democratic institutions and the transparency of the democratic process”. Zahid Farooq, human rights defender from Karachi, told Agenzia Fides: “We are already a minority and the divisions between us will weaken our political representation. We will continue our efforts to be present in political forums, because we urgently need advocacy”.