Pakistanis Condemn Electoral System
By KATHY GANNON, Associated Press Writer
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) - Members of Pakistan's religious minorities Sunday condemned an electoral system that separates Muslims from non-Muslims.
Following a daylong meeting involving representatives of several religious minorities, the Christian Liberation Front of Pakistan issued a declaration calling the system "religious apartheid."
In Pakistan, where 95 percent of the country's 140 million people are Muslim, members of minority religions vote not for candidates in their local district but for a list of minority candidates. The minorities are given separate seats in the National Assembly, which is the powerful lawmaking lower house of Parliament.
Minorities have 10 seats in Pakistan's 211-seat parliament, which was suspended by the army when it seized power in a military coup Oct 12, 1999.
"This religious apartheid has politically and socially ostracized the religious minorities of Pakistan," said the declaration jointly issued by Pakistan's Christian, Hindu, Sikh, Zoroastrian and Bahai communities.
The declaration comes as Pakistan's military-led government prepares to hold local elections, set to begin Dec. 31. The army has promised to hold general elections before the end of 2002, in keeping with a Supreme Court ruling.
Pakistan's Human Rights Commission also has been a strong advocate of a joint electoral system, where one person, one vote determines the successful candidate in an election.
The country's minority religions have long complained about the separate electoral system which was instituted nearly 20 years ago.
There was no immediate comment from the military government. Previous governments in Pakistan have refused to change the system, saying it gives minorities a voice in the Parliament. The system is strongly supported by the country's right-wing Islamic parties.
©Copyright 2000, Associated Press