minorities in merged areas

Zahid Jan

Jamil Bismil, a Hindu resident of Bajaur is acting as the general secretary of the Bajaur Minority Association for past 12 years. In this capacity, he has been going to government offices and meeting functionaries to address the minorities issues. Mr Bismil said the reason behind persistence of minorities basic issues lies in the fact their representatives were not directly elected, rather, selected by political parties.

He said that selection of minority MPAs and MNAs was costing these communities dearly as it was hindering them from getting their rights.

“These selected members only pay attention to certain areas,” he said. Besides, he said that selected members are not answerable to voters nor they have any fear of going back to electorate in next elections.

He said that provincial government has allocated Rs 38 million funds for Bajaur minorities in 2021; however, it could not be utilized.

Mr Bismil said that they met the minority affairs minister several times in this regard but without any luck. “We want elections for the minority MPAs and MNAs and only this way their issues will be resolved,” he said.

On the other hand, there are 10 reserved seats for minorities in National Assembly and political parties can nominate anyone from any area for these seats.

These seats are filled on the basis of proportional representations among political parties in line with votes they have collected in general elections.  However, a political party which has won less than five percent of general seats is not entitled to minority seat in the NA.

Similarly, in the provincial assemblies have also reserved seats for the minorities.

Electoral history of minorities representation

In the past, minority lawmakers were elected through votes, which was changed in the 2002. In 1985, a Hindu community member from Nowshera was elected minority MNA while in 1988 a Kohati Christian was elected to the National Assembly.  Bihari Lal, a Hindu MNA was made a minority affais minister in the cabinet of the Muhammad Khan Junejo.

Merged areas’ minorities were given representation in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly after the merger. In 2019 first ever elections for provincial assembly seats in merged districts, Wilson Wazir, a Christian from the Landi Kotal tehsil of Khyber was selected MPA on the Pakistan Tehrik Insaf ticket. However, Mr Wazir in four years in assembly has failed to do something for minorities of the merged districts.

On the other hand, Mr Bismil said that minorities were deprived of their rights for past 75 years and their representative were to blame for their deprivation. “Mr Wazir has failed to do anything for minorities anywhere in merged districts,” he said.

Mr Bismil said that there were neither crematoriums nor temples for worships in Bajaur, Kurram, Miran Shah and Kohat areas.

Similarly, Pervez Masih, president of Bajaur Minority Association, said that non-implementation of five percent minority quota in government jobs was a one of their major issues.

He said that to resolve these issues, minority members should be directly elected. Mr Masih said that his daughter was unopposed elected as lady councilors in the local government polls and now working for the rights of minorities. “Direct elections will provide opportunities to all to contest elections,” he said.

Non-Muslims in Pakistan

Pakistan minority population stands around 7.2 million as per the 2017 census including 3.6 million Hindus, 2.64 million Christian, 0.19 million Ahamdis and 0.04 million others.

Wilson Wazir responds to his detractors

On the other hand, Mr Wilson Wazir said that rejected the allegations that he had not done anything for the minorities as MPA.

He said that got approved a Church in Bajaur at the cost of Rs 15 million while another church in Landikotal cantonment was nearly completion at the cost of Rs 15 million. Similarly, Rs 6 million were spent on expansion of Jamrud church.

He said that merged district minorities annual development grant of Rs 500 million was also approved and residential flats will be constructed in Landikotal.

Besides, he said that 20 flats and a community hall will be built in Jamrud while up to 15 residential quarters will be built in Bajaur.

In addition to this, a church will be built in Parachinar and 25 houses will be renovated.

Mr Wazir said that they have also planned to setup a church, graveyard and community center in Miran Shah, community hall and 10 residential quarters in Ghalanai area of Mohmand. Besides, he said that Rs 10,000 scholarships were given to minorities children for the first time and religious figures were given Rs 50,000 each.

Besides, he said that 900 minority youths were provided technical training of different trades while another 900 will also be trained soon.

Regarding the direct elections, he said that it can only be done through constitutional amendment.

However, Mr Wazir said that for the provincial assembly he favored the direct election on minority seats as in case of indirect election a member has to go by the party’s directions.

Mr Wazir demanded direct elections for minority seats from the province besides increasing minority seats. He said that minoity seats have not been increased since 1985.

Fair and Free Elections Network (FAFEN) National Coordinator Sarwar Bari said that number of minority seats have not been increased. “NA seats were increased in 1970 but not minority seats in it,” he said.

Besides, he said that political parties should give tickets to minority tickets in areas with high minority population. Mr Bari said that there was considerable Hindu population in Umerkot, Tharparkar and Mirpurkhas and their numbers ranged up to 40 percent of the population.

Similarly, there were 30,000 Christian voters in a Faisalabad constituency. Mr Bari said that in areas with more minority population, there should be one minority seat besides the general seat.

He said that like the European countries, political parties should give tickets to minority members. “British Labour Party had awarded Glasgow ticket to the former Punjab governor Muhammad Sarwar and now his son was representing Glasgow,” he said.

He said that similar system should be introduced in Pakistan.

 

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