Pakistani Christian politicians back election changes

Religious minorities in Punjab granted the right to directly elect their political representatives
Pakistani Christian politicians back election changes

Pakistani Muslim devotees light earth lamps as they pray at the shrine of Sufi saint Hazrat Mian Mir during the annual festival in Punjabi capital Lahore on Nov. 5, his 396th birth anniversary. (Photo: Arif Ali/AFP)

Christian politicians have welcomed key amendments approved by the cabinet of Pakistan’s most populous Punjab province regarding the right to dual votes in the upcoming local government elections.

The Punjab cabinet on Nov. 5 approved amendments to the Punjab Local Government Act, allowing religious minorities to vote for reserved as well as general seats.

Naveed Amir Jeeva, a Christian MP and a member of the opposition Pakistan Peoples Party, cautiously welcomed the decision.

“It has always been our demand that minorities be given the right to dual vote. We have seen media reports in this regard. If it is indeed implemented in the local government elections, our party will support it,” Jeeva told ucanews.

Punjab Minority Alliance chairman Tahir Naveed Chaudhry said the move was one of his party’s long-standing demands.

“There can be no better news than Pakistani minorities getting the right to elect their representatives through direct election. This is a huge relief if it is true,” Chaudhry said.

Aftab Gill, a spokesman for the Pakistan Masiha Millat Party, applauded the decision.

“For too long religious minorities had been deprived of their right to elect their public representatives because of the selection criteria that were in place,” Gill told ucanews.

“Our minority lawmakers were unwilling to hear, let alone address, our problems because they did not come into power from our votes. They get selected by political parties based on their seats in the parliament.

“The double right to vote will help us elect our real representatives. The same model should be be replicated in the elections for national and provincial assemblies.”

Christians are the largest non-Muslim minority in Punjab and make up 2.6 percent of the province’s population of 110 million, according to the 2017 national census.

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