Dr.Nasir Hussain Bukhari
Separate electorates are usually demanded by minorities who feel it would otherwise be difficult for them to get fair representation in government. For example, a separate electorate for Muslims means that Muslims will choose their separate leader by separate elections for Muslims. On top of that, in the Global community religious and ethnic minority communities are represented in the parliament through direct election.
All India Muslim league won the right of separate electorate in Minto- Morley reforms in 1909. All Indian Congress rejected separate electorate to declare it a tactic of colonial imperial British rule.
However ,All India Muslim League developed its case for a separate state utilizing this right for the Muslims. Quaid e Azam intelligently manipulated it by including minorities to support his stance of harsh behaviour of the All India National Congress with minorities in India. Jinnah included Jogander Naath Mandal in interim government set up after the election of 1945-46. on the other hand All Indian Congress had enormous number of the Muslims in its ranks.
Foreseeing the dangers of separate electorate a for Pakistan after the creation in 1947. Its major reason was the scarce population of minorities. Quaid I Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah vividly announced in his first speech to forest constituent assembly that minorities will be protected and declared himself the “Protector General ” for minorities and Governor general for the Muslims.
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He also stated that state has nothing to do with the religion of any citizen except to protect them for their worship. He said that you are free to go to mosques , Church, and temples. This part of Quaid e Azam is enough that he clearly rejected the concept of a separate electorate in Pakistan. The cinatituion of 1956,1962 and 1973 did not provide adopted the concept of separate electorate for minorities in Pakistan.
However, In 1985, the separate electorate was introduced for non-Muslim under 8th amendment in constitution 1973 due to amendment presented by the General Zia. This right of separate electorate actually became a reasons for the division of tolerant Pakistani society into polarized.
Zia is also held responsible for creating sectarianism in Pakistan due to his so-called process of Islamization. Since 1985 to 2002 five elections held on the basis of separate electorate in Pakistan which were totally abolished in 2002 under the amendments in constitution of 1973 during the General Musharaf regime.
The beauty and soft image of Pakistan is pluralism. But after the spread of Sectarianism and religious bigotry the minorities in Pakistan feel themselves completely insecure. There are ample evidences of victimization of the minorities due to religious extremism.
Another reasons is social economic backwardness of the minorities ( non Muslim.Pakiatanis). Imran Khan ‘s fascist regime increased the polarization among Pakistanis. Currently, Pakistan is facing the dilemma of polarization and socio-economic insecurity particularly the non Muslim Pakistanis who are usually called minorities.
Owing to this insecurity, a demand for separate electorate is made by the non Muslim Pakistanis. if the minorities demand a separate electorate they will depend on the government to give them the status of the second citizen.
This confusion found among the minorities needs to be addressed to build the soft and tolerant image of Pakistan in the world. Indeed, the huge gap in the socio economic development of non Muslim Pakistanis and the majority of the Muslim population is enough to understand the fears of exploitation and victimization of the non Muslim Parties. Although
The political parties of Pakistan nominate the representatives of the non Muslim Pakistanis in national and provincial assembly, the process of nomination reflects the mindset of hegemony of the majority.
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There is a suggestion to the segment of the non Muslim population who demand a separate electorate that they must demand for a joint electorate. why joint electorate?
First,It will eliminate the culture of discrimination between the citizens of Pakistan who are equal by all means under the constitution of Pakistan.
Second, it will also help to flourish a culture of harmony among all the citizens as well as to eradicate religious extremism.
Third the joint electorate will ensure the equal opportunities for socio economic development of all Pakistanis.
Fourth, the social behaviours of young Pakistani generation will gradually change towards the non Muslim Pakistanis whom they look with a different angle due to undue thinking regarding them.
Fifth, joint electorate is essential to provide a sense of equality and security to non Muslim Pakistanis. Pakistan Peoples people party as a good tradition of providing representation to non Muslims in all legislative bodies of Pakistan.
For instance, in the 2024 elections Sawera Parkash is contesting on the general seat in KPK. it is optimistic omen for Pakistan towards the philosophy of equal citizenship in Pakistan as PPP has mentioned the citizenship education in Pakistan.
PPP sincerely observes the “day of minorities” on August 11 with reference to the speech of Quaid e Azam and his vision for equality to all Pakistanis. Actually the philosophy of observing this day is to create harmony among all Pakistanis. But it has been served that representatives of all the non Muslim Pakistanis communities demand on that day to give them the equal status.
They feel irritated to call them minorities because they are also sons of the soil, every non Muslim community has supported the struggle for Pakistan and they are sincerely contributing in national development like the Muslimajority.
I would appeal to the chairman Bilawal Bhutto to change the acronym of this day as ” Pakistanis Day” that must be based on the philosophy of ” No majority ,No minority ,only equal Pakistanis.
Moreover, PPP and all other political parties must evolve a system of joint electorate in Pakistan for all Pakistanis instead of nominations of the representatives of the non Muslim Pakistanis to include them in mainstream politics. Inclusive approach is essential for democratic and tolerant Pakistan. No majority ,No minority,all are equal Pakistanis under the constitution of Pakistan.
(The writer is freelance political and social analyst )