ASIA/PAKISTAN - Commission for Justice: more parliamentary seats for religious minorities

Thursday, 10 March 2016 religious minorities   civil society  

Islamabad (Agenzia Fides) - The "Parliamentary Commission for Law and Justice" unanimously agreed to increase the number of reserved seats for the country's religious minorities in the National Assembly, as well as in the provincial assemblies. The proposal will have to be voted by Parliament in order for it to become law.
The National Assembly Standing Committee on Law and Justice made the decision to back the move laid out in a constitution amendment bill put forward by Asiya Nasir, who worked together with five other members of the Assembly. The committee reached a consensus to increase the number of reserved seats in National Assembly by five, two each in the Punjab and Sindh assemblies, and one each in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan.
Currently the number of reserved seats for minorities in the national assembly are 10, 9 in Sindh, 8 in Punjab, and 3 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan.
The issue of religious minority representation has always been very sensitive: in the past, Christians spoke of "deficit of transparency and representativeness", identifying a mechanism of selection based on patronage and conditioned by corruption, in many cases, entrusted to the choice of Muslim parties.
In 2011 a measure (the 18th amendment) came into force which reserves to religious minorities (Christians and Hindus) 4 seats in the Pakistani Senate for each province. But the selection of candidates is the prerogative of parties, who are mostly Muslims. It takes place on the basis of purely financial criteria, ie considering the contribution, in millions of rupees, that a candidate can give the party. The presence of Christians and Hindus in the National Assembly in Pakistan is historically minimal. The situation of other minority groups is even worse: for example, about four million Ahmadis in Pakistan are excluded from voting in the elections. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 10/03/2016)