As Pakistan heads into parliamentary elections this week, the country’s minorities are looking for better representation and a voice that will speak for them in what rights groups warn is in an increasingly intolerant atmosphere in this Muslim-majority nation.
It was reported that it’s an uphill struggle for Pakistani, Christians, Ahmadis and others. Minority religions make up just 4 per cent of Pakistan’s 200 million people. Shias account for about 15-20 per cent of the Muslim Population. The country’s complicated electoral system allots minorities and women a small number of reserved seats, based on their political party’s gains at the polls.
But for the rest of the seats in 342-seat National Assembly, the law-making lower house of parliament, and the four provincial legislature members of minority group are increasingly choosing to run as independent candidates, without affiliation to any political party.
The minorities’ major concern ahead of Wednesday’s vote has been the plethora of radical religious and sectarian groups that have resurrected themselves under new names and fielded candidates for the polls including Sunni extremist who promise to rid Pakistan of Shia Muslims.
Other radical parties have campaigned on promises to enforce Pakistan’s controversial law on blasphemy, which carries the death penalty, and which has allowed for the prosecution of anyone deemed to offend Islam. Frenzied mobs, according to reports, have killed at the mere suggestion that an act of blasphemy was committed.
On this issue Human Rights Activist and founder of Independent Human Rights commission of Pakistan, IA Rehman said, “Pakistan is becoming more and more intolerant of minority rights.” He is urging the government to make sufficient effort to ensure minorities can cast their votes.
Some activist, according to sources, demanded that on the outskirts of Islamabad, a place Rimshah mostly Christian dominant place was highly alleged by blasphemy act. A year ago an 11-year-old Christian girl had tried to kill and drove her family out from their home. The girl was suffering from down syndrome and allegation upon her was: that she was tearing up pages of an Islamic religious book.
Now in Rimshah, nearly 3 million Christian are campaigning for Asif Shahzada, who is an representing a Christian community. This is only one instance, now to survive many minorities communities are campaigning only to establish it basic rights, which is being scrapped away on daily basis in the country, said an activist.