ASIA/PAKISTAN - A Catholic elected Deputy President of the Sindh Provincial Assembly

Wednesday, 28 February 2024 politics   civil society   religious minorities  

Karachi (Agenzia Fides) - Catholic politician Anthony Naveed has been elected deputy president of the provincial parliament of Sindh, a province in southern Pakistan. It is the first time that a Christian politician has been elected to this office. Naveed was the Christian chosen by the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) for the only seat reserved for religious minorities in the Sindh Provincial Assembly after the February 8 general elections. Under current electoral law, each party selects its own candidates for seats reserved for minorities. Anthony Naveed, 53, comes from a Catholic family in Karachi and studied political science and engineering. He has always distinguished himself through his active involvement in the Catholic community: he was vice-president of the “Karachi Christian Boys Association”, headed the archdiocesan youth commission and in this capacity took part in the World Youth Day in Toronto (Canada) in 2002. His political involvement began in 2005 when he ran for the PPP in the local elections in Karachi. In 2016, he became Assistant to the Prime Minister of Sindh. In 2018, the PPP chose him as its candidate for the minority seat in the Sindh Assembly and he was elected. He has now been confirmed for a second term and appointed deputy chairman of the assembly. In his political engagement, he focused on educational initiatives and vocational training opportunities for the youth of his community. Despite the difficult conditions, Naveed has remained rooted in the “Akhtar Colony” neighborhood in Karachi, where he was born, married and settled with his family: the decision to “stay” in a working-class neighborhood inhabited by Christians has won him the favor of the people in the Christian community and underlined its aim to "serve the rights of the poorest and discriminated against". "I am grateful to the PPP, a political party that has decided to take concrete measures to protect the rights of all minorities, including the Christian community", Naveed said. His election and appointment was generally well received by Pakistan's faithful "as a sign that the most disadvantaged groups are being given equal opportunities to grow in the economic and socio-political spheres," said Akmal Bhatti, chairman of the Minority Alliance of Pakistan. Meanwhile, at the federal level, Pakistan is grappling with forming a new government after the February 8 elections. Pakistan's two historically main political parties (Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Pakistan People's Party) have officially announced the formation of a coalition government, with the controversial and still-imprisoned Imran Khan kept out of the country's government, although his party's elected representatives obtained the majority of seats in Parliament (93 seats). The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), with 75 seats, and the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), with 54 seats, announced an alliance for a government coalition with former Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif as Prime Minister and Asif Ali Zardari (of the PPP) as Prime Minister President. Shehbaz Sharif is the younger brother of three-time former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. At the same time, Nawaz Sharif's eldest daughter became the first female representative in the Punjab Provincial Assembly. Political opponents accused the authorities of nepotism and boycotted the provincial assembly session. The new government, meanwhile, faces the urgent renewal of the $3 billion agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which analysts say is crucial to the economic stability of the country, which is going through a serious economic and social crisis. Last year, Pakistan signed a nine-month loan deal from the IMF that now faces renewal, with a long-term financing plan widely seen as a priority for the next government. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 28/2/2024)