Christian Church leaders in Pakistan are demanding the restoration of the Joint Electorate System that was enshrined in the original Pakistan Constitution of 1973.

In a media release issued by the Pakistan Catholic Bishops’ National Commission for Justice and Peace it was reported that they might even consider boycotting the next elections (media release attached).

“The Australian Catholic Social Justice Council has been concerned for some time about the Separate Electorate System in Pakistan.  This system was imposed by the military dictator General Zia-Ul-Haq in 1985.  Under this system members of religious minorities, such as Christians, can neither vote for Muslim candidates nor can they stand as candidates in Muslim electorates.  There are separate electorates on the basis of religion.  Muslim voters can only vote for Muslim candidates while non-Muslim voters can only vote for non-Muslim candidates contesting seats reserved for their religious group.  The Constitution provides that 207 seats in the National Assembly are reserved for Muslims and 10 seats are provided for religious minorities (4 for Hindus, 4 for Christians, 1 for Ahmadies and Parees and 1 for other religions)”, explained Bishop William Brennan, Chairman of the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council (ACSJC).

“As Bishop Kevin Manning said when he was Chairman of the ACSJC:

“The system of Separate Electorates appears to have created and reinforced divisions among the citizens of Pakistan encouraging religious bigotry and restricting the voting choices of all citizens, Muslims and members of religious minorities alike.  This system would also appear to violate Article 25 of the Constitution of Pakistan, which guarantees equal rights to all citizens.”

“The ACSJC is committed to the promotion of religious tolerance and the freedom of religion and belief for all people everywhere and so we support the struggle of religious minorities in Pakistan for full and equal rights as citizens”, concluded Bishop Brennan.