ISLAMABAD - Members of a the National Lobbying Delegation (NLD) have finalized suggestions for integration and streamlining of various ‘minority’ communities as voters, workers and candidates in the upcoming general elections and urged political parties to ensure proper representation of non-Muslim women in the parliament House o make joint electorate effective.

These suggestions are based on two formative researches titled ‘Non-Muslims in Pakistan’s Electoral System’ and ‘Views of Non-Muslim Community Leaders’, conducted by the Church World Service Pakistan/Afghanistan (CWS) in recent past. Some of the suggestions are aimed at clearing procedural hurdles in obtaining identity cards and the issue of misspelled names in voter lists. The other suggestions are related with social problems such as forcing non-Muslim voters to vote for a particular candidate or keeping non-Muslim voters away from polling stations by harassing, deceiving and humiliating them in polling queues.

In a meeting held here where NLD members unanimously agreed to call on all the political parties for putting an end to the party list system for nomination of candidates on seats reserved for ‘minorities’. The NLD resolved to get ‘minority’ candidates elected from the general seats and also demanded of all the political parties to award party tickets to ‘minority’ candidates from constituencies, which the respective parties are almost sure to win.

Members of the delegation (NLD) have also suggested that political parties should have non-Muslim office bearers and award them tickets for general seats. The ‘minority wings’ should be done away with. Political parties should take legislative measures to remove discriminatory laws and should come up with provisions to make joint electorate effective. At least three seats should be reserved for women of ‘minority’ communities for they are neither represented through seats reserved for women nor through those reserved for the ‘minorities’.

“Purpose of both the research studies was to establish the electoral significance of minorities and to solicit suggestions from various community leaders based on their electoral experiences,” Mohammad Zia-ul-Haq, Senior Programme Officer at CWS said, adding, that these leaders were also members of five different ‘minority’ communities; Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Scheduled Caste and Bahai. “During this process we had interviewed more than 80 community leaders which would serve as the primary data for our research findings and suggestions”, Haq said adding that these studies had also offered an appreciation of benefits, solutions and suggestions along with reasons for various problems hampering participation of religious ‘minorities’ in the electoral processes.

He said that only political parties could lead to further strengthening this campaign and provide with a constitution to make the state responsible for the duties that accrue onto it.

“Of course, it is their (political parties) job to work for the evolution of constitutional norms, amend the constitution in order to provide securities, guarantees and safeguards to them as equal citizens, and to create an encouraging environment for their participation in the business of the state,” he said while giving a tentative timeline for meeting with the leaders of major political parties which include; Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP), Awami National Party (ANP), Pakistan Muslim League (PML-Nawaz), Mutthida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid), Jamiat-i- Ulema-i-Islam (Fazal) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

The members of NLD include George Clement, a seasoned former parliamentarian, Chairman Scheduled Caste Rights Movement Ramesh Jaipal, head of an NGO in Faisalabad, Christina Peter, PhD student at the Punjab University Kalyan Singh Kalyan, experienced development worker Romana Bashir, Head of Programs at Christian Study Centre, senior programme manager at Pakistan Centre for Philanthropy Dr. Jennifer Euler-Bennett, prominent social activist Naseer Gill, Jagdeesh R. Molani a lawyer based in Hyderabad, Hyderabad Coordinator for Human Rights Commission of Pakistan Dr. Ashothama Lohano, M. Parkash a lawyer absed in Hyderabad, Abid Chand a political worker/leader based in Multan, Tariq Javed Tariq a social worker and a lawyer based in Lahore and Atif who heads Harmony Foundation and is based in Faisalabad.

It is worth mentioning here that the NLD was formed to improve the participation of voters in electoral politics. The other purpose of NLD was to share problems with and put forward suggestions to all political parties over the course of next few weeks.