Dear Non-Muslim Pakistani Citizen,
Have you ever realized that thirty-seven legislators in the senate, national and provincial assemblies owe you their seats and privileges? In fact, they are seated on your identity. Most of them are Christians and Hindus. There are also a few Sikhs and representatives of other communities. However, these legislators are deafeningly silent whenever a religious community becomes the target of discrimination. This eloquent silence has marginalized and politically orphaned their communities.
This letter is about political exclusion, representation, electoral experiments in Pakistan, the drawbacks of the current electoral system and a proposal to redress electoral grievances.
Political Exclusion in the Representational System for Religious Minorities
It is worth considering that, according to the 2017 census, non-Muslim Pakistanis comprise 3,324,392 Hindus; 519,436 Scheduled Castes; 3,303,615 Christians; 457,104 Ahmedis; 145,442 Sikhs, Parsis and other non-Muslim Pakistanis. This comes to a total of 7,749,988.
According to the Election Commission’s March 2018 data, there were 1,777,289 Hindu voters; 1,638,748 Christian voters and other non-Muslim voters totaling 3,626,365. Although our society is theoretically based on social justice, yet the weak are totally insecure. Their religion, skin color, sect, caste or creed singles them out for discrimination.
However, the main reason for non-Muslim Pakistanis’ anxiety about their legislators is that the interests of their nominating parties that take precedence over the interests of their communities. Being nominees, they are obliged to safeguard the interests of their party to the detriment of their community. The system ensures their loyalty only to their nominating authority.
The political elite, the common people and our social, religious and political leaders are collectively responsible for politically excluding the 7.8 million children of this soil who fully participated in India’s Independence Movement and the Creation and Defense of Pakistan. They include common people and illustrious names such as Roplu, Kohli, Joginder Nath Mandal, Justice Bhagwan Das, Sobogyan Chandaani.
Just take Sardar Hari Singh, who supported the creation of Pakistan and announced his decision to migrate from Amritsar to Lahore at the cost of his family’s massacre.
Master Tara Singh opposed Hari Singh’s decision. On Tara Singh’s order 129 family members of Hari Singh were slaughtered.
Raja Tridev left his state and after Bangladesh’s creation remained loyal to the Quaid’s country till his last breath. Numerous Parsis are the builders of modern Karachi whose services are second to none. Christians, remain active, contributing citizens in all sectors and at all levels of society. They were India’s freedom fighters, and subsequently Pakistan’s staunch defenders, warriors and martyrs.
The approximately 7.8 million non-Muslim children of Pakistan’s soil continue to be involved in nation-building. But, despite their contributions, these Pakistani citizens remain politically destitute.
Minorities in Pakistan’s Electoral System
The electoral system of Pakistan has reduced religious minorities to test-tubes in a political science laboratory. Different experimental procedures have only resulted in political destitution.
Here, I would like to draw your attention to an excerpt from “Dharti Jaye Kyun Paraye”, one of my books written in fulfilment of the Identity Movement’s objectives. The title of the English translation is “Neglected Christian Children of Indus”.
“The state is also responsible for this political backwardness of ours because it could not set up any electoral system which could provide us with political training.”
In its seventy years of history Pakistan’s electoral systems have failed to provide legislative representation to non-Muslims. The non-Muslim minority members of provincial and national assemblies remain nominees in each of the six experimental electoral systems.
In the following paragraphs, an analysis of the five electoral systems set up for non-Muslim Pakistanis in seven decades, will explain the state’s seventy-year-old political deficit.
System 1, 1947 – 1970.
This system consisted of four tenures of national assemblies: 1947-1954, 1955-1958, 1962-1965, 1965-1969.
The first assembly consisted of 69 members out of which 14 were non-Muslim. All the non-Muslims were Hindu and were from East Pakistan although two of their official address were of Karachi and West Punjab. This was the first constituent assembly of Pakistan and there was no Christian member of the assembly.
The second assembly consisted of 72 members out which 11 were non-Muslim. Of the 11 9 were Hindus, 8 from East Punjab, 1 from Sindh. From the 2 Christians one was from Punjab, one from East Pakistan. In both these assemblies non-Muslims were only nominated by the political elite of the newly born state.
The third assembly was formed by election and no non-Muslim won.
Similarly, there was no non-Muslim in the Fourth assembly.
During these first 22 – 23 years of Pakistan’s independence, from 1947 to 1970, representatives of minority faith communities were only nominated.
System 2 1972 – 1977.
Mixed system. In 1970, for the first time Pakistan’s history, general elections were held on one man one vote basis. Thirty-three Christian candidates contested the election for an equal number of seats in the national assembly and provincial assemblies. Only one Hindu succeeded in the Sindh assembly provincial seats. All the others were badly defeated. A single Buddhist, Raj Teri Dev, joined the Pakistan assembly, from his constituency in East Pakistan (Present Bangladesh). 1970 to 1971 was a war situation. In 1972 Bhutto took over as Martial Law administrator and under Martial Law Regulation 118 he nationalized private enterprises and educational institutes. This decision badly affected Christians. Educational Institutes were their major resource. A single stroke of the pen made them destitute. With no Christian member elected in the 1970 election and their educational institutes nationalized, they started public demonstrations. In their protest outside the Prime Minister’s House, Rawalpindi, two Christians, Nawaz Masih and R. M. James, were martyred by police firing. Subsequently, the 1973 constitution reserved six seats for nominated non-Muslim Pakistanis. Consequently, there were six nominees: four Christians, one Hindu and one Ahmedi.
In the five-year period from 1970 to 1976, the whole nation celebrated democracy except for non-Muslim Pakistanis. They only had two representatives who won the elections: Rana Chandar Singh, a Hindu, who won from TharParker for provincial assembly of Sindh and Raja Tridev Rai, a Budhistleader in East Pakistan, now Bangladesh.
Christians, Sikhs, Parsis and other non-Muslim Pakistanis were only able to applaud this democracy as distant spectators. Later six minority members were nominated in National Assembly in 1973 but no provision for provincial assembly in 1973 constitution that was made in 1976 with 6th constitutional amendment for nomination of Non-Muslim representation for provincial assemblies.
System 3, 1977 – 1985.
Return to just nominees.
In this third eight to nine-year period, democrats and dictators alike infantilized all non-Muslim Pakistanis. Puppet representatives continued being nominated. It was insistently stated that they ‘represented’ their religious communities. In practice, they only safeguarded and white-washed their nominators’ interests.
System 4, 1985 – 1999.
Five elections were held in this period: 1985-1988, 1988-1990, 1992-1993, 1993-1996 or 1997-1999.
In the fourth, fourteen-year period, the Separate Electorate system required non-Muslim Pakistanis to elect their representatives from a single, nation-wide constituency for the national assembly seat. And made the whole province a constituency for provincial assemblies. This system was introduced by Gen. Zia for national and provincial assemblies.
The system had three major drawbacks.
Firstly, these separate electorates converted the entire country or province into a single constituency for all non-Muslim legislative candidates grouped together. Non-Muslim Pakistanis, especially Christians, did not have the finances to campaign across the whole country or province which had been made their constituency.
Secondly, once elected, the non-Muslim candidates had to validate their result by attaching themselves to a mainstream party.
By negative definition and in practice, they became functional nominees.
Thirdly, this system turned non-Muslims into untouchables, consciously or unconsciously perpetuating the caste system of Brahminism which the Islamic Republic theoretically decried.
Non-Muslims had been, in effect, institutionally marginalized.
The Christian candidates with their subsistence-level, metaphorical campaign funds, became a supporting cast of stage extras in the Theater of the Absurd, with each candidate expected to campaign the length and breadth of Pakistan for every single legislative seat.
The only merit of this system for non-Muslims was as a training ground in non-representational democracy. In practice, it cut off and alienated the non-Muslim children of Pakistan from the national mainstream and upheld infantilism.
A further injustice generic to this system ensured that a non-Muslim voter and a Muslim representative from his /her constituency in the senate, national or provincial assemblies became untouchables for each other.
Being neighbors lost its meaning.
Surprisingly, the claimants to leadership of non-Muslim Pakistanis actively participated in this electoral system. In return for the perks of a parliamentary seat, many respectable people willingly accepted becoming institutional untouchables in a system that excluded their communities from the national mainstream. The common non-Muslim Pakistani continued to suffer without de facto representation.
System 5, Current since 2002 election.
Proportionate representation, which means selected, not elected.
Under this system, four elections have been held — 2002, 2008, 2013 and 2018.
In response to the concerns of some politically conscious non-Muslim Pakistanis, the fifth and current system was initiated eighteen years ago, in 2002. Superficially, this system, gives non-Muslims a feeling of being Pakistanis. However, non-Muslims are selected by the mainstream party heads, a de facto return to Pakistan’s first electoral system under which non-Muslims were directly nominated to parliament.
This system, current since 2002, suffers from several disadvantages.
Except for a few Hindus, no non-Muslim, has ever been deemed worthy of an election party ticket to represent Pakistanis of all faiths. They remain a species apart.
However, it has to be admitted that this exclusion also results from several historical, political, religious and social parameters.
For example, votes in Pakistan are cast on the basis of candidates’ caste or religion and not their candidate’s manifesto. Our political elite is content with this status quo …
Furthermore, in the name of proportionate representation, the political elite monopolizes the right to select non-Muslims’ representatives. The current system enables them to impose their favorites to do their bidding in and out of parliament. Therefore, in the event of a clash of interests between their political masters and the downtrodden community which they represent, the minority legislators support their political mentors.
Not the downtrodden community in whose name they enjoy their privileges.
This electoral system of proportionate representation gives birth to many other social evils such as inter-party sycophancy, jealousy and hatred.
The most objectionable, undemocratic practice is three to four political leaders selecting, rather than electing, thirty-seven minority representatives of 3,626,365 voters. These three or four political leaders represent the majority and not the minority communities. By what criteria do they nominate the representatives of minority communities? Representatives of minorities selected by the majority cannot claim to represent their communities. They merely uphold the interests of their political masters in parliament
So, the current system, in place since 2000, is a representational dead-end.
Since the creation of Pakistan to date, the majority political elite has been practicing favoritism by ushering non-Muslims of their choice into parliament. The separate electorates laid bare the reality these minority leaders whereas the joint electorate reduced them to ineffectual puppets specializing in “jee sahib”!
This system needs to progress from its nominative bias to being fully representational.
Non-Muslim Pakistanis should be able to express their national identity like other fellow-Pakistanis. They need a political system wherein they could elect a representative from their constituency, irrespective of any religious affiliation. Then, they should concurrently elect religious representatives to secure their religious rights. After all, communal identity in Pakistan is not defined by ethnicity but by religious affiliation.
Proposition of Double Voting.
Neither joint nor separate electorates have resulted in representation. The bottom line in each system remains Nomination which is Infantilization.
Both systems challenge every politological notion of equality and Pakistan’s own claims to being an inclusive democracy.
Preceding systems have locked minorities into a political science laboratory. To give the non-Muslim Pakistanis de facto equality and ensure that the rights of a faith community are protected, they must be granted the right of a Double Vote.
For Pakistani non-Muslims and the democratic credibility of Pakistan itself, among the comity of nations, it is the only way of ensuring representation beyond mere wordage.
Furthermore, there is an additional advantage of the Double Vote. The total number of votes of non-Muslim Pakistanis is 3,626,365 but these are dispersed all over the country. An August 2012 Community World Service Asia survey showed that in the general elections of 2008, in 59 national constituencies, the number of non-Muslim voters exceeded the difference in the number of votes between the successful and defeated candidates. Similarly, other research showed that in 14 districts in Pakistan – 13 in Punjab and 1 in Karachi – the number of Christian voters was 50,000 or more. The same research showed that in 11 districts – 10 in Sindh and 1 in Rahim Yar Khan, Punjab – the number of Hindu voters was 50,000 or more.
These figures show that the ground reality is conducive to inclusive democracy.
Finally, the entire nation stands to benefit from Double Voting.
Different parties will present their non-Muslim candidates to the non-Muslim voters. The non-Muslims will only be able to win if they offer solutions in their party manifestos specific to non-Muslims problems. The overlapping interests of different religious communities systemically introduced will create a national atmosphere of religious and social stability. It will reduce the unpleasant incidents that feed the world’s colonial powers’ criticism of the injustice under which Pakistan’s religious minorities live.
Double Voting will also enhance Pakistan’s dignity in the comity of nations and the dignity of non-Muslim Pakistanis within Pakistan.
Non-Muslim Pakistanis will be satisfied that neither their national nor their religious identities are under threat. They will then work even harder to put their talents at the nation’s disposal for its progress and prosperity.
Under this proposed electoral system of Double Voting, non-Muslim minorities will elect representatives for national and provincial assemblies from their respective constituencies to express their national identity. Yet, they will also elect representatives to safeguard their religious rights and interests in parliament.
The detailed features of this system can be worked out subject to the ground reality of demographics.
Double Voting is the only way to ensure the political survival of Pakistan’s religious minorities and the survival of a national, inclusive democratic system.
So far, Pakistan’s minorities have been a pendulum alternating between a rock and a hard place.
In one of the electoral systems imposed on non-Muslim Pakistanis, national identity is lost.
In the other, the selected representatives nominated in the name of religious identity and rights safeguard other interests.
No modern nation can claim enlightenment and democracy by denying its religious and / or ethnic minorities free, full and de facto access to the democratic system. Vigorously-repeated semantics fail as substitutes. Thus, the survival of Pakistan’s democratic system is conditional to the full participation of non-Muslim Pakistanis.
In the past seventy-two years, fifteen national and provincial assemblies have been elected and about ten senates have completed their tenure. Our political elite itself remains challenged by the unchanging bottom line of nomination. It is regrettable that the only Pakistani Non-Muslims who are satisfied with their electoral system are those whose self-interest it serves. It is a big question mark for the political elite of Pakistan that all the non-Muslim Pakistanis are not satisfied with their electoral system imposed on them in different eras by different rulers. By introducing double vote system, we can automatically resolve majority of the socio economic and political problem of non-Muslim Pakistanis.
The historical evidence presented in the preceding paragraphs demonstrates that Pakistani non-Muslims share the responsibility of their exclusion with the political elite. Unable to achieve anything on merit under the joint electorate, we proposed and supported the separate electorate which reduced us to the status of untouchables. Then some people started clamoring for a return to the joint electorate, which was granted.
Now we are asking for a return to the separate electorate system.
Turning ourselves into a political yo-yo means that we have learned nothing from the past seventy years.
Christians are generally considered the founders of modern education in the sub-continent and, successors of those who disseminated political and social awareness. They own educational institutions spread across the country. Yet, they have failed to impart intellectual training to their own people. Similarly, Hindus who are successors of a political guru like Sobhogyaan Chandaani, were unable to organize any kind of struggle. Other religious minorities, being extremely small in number, watched helplessly from the sidelines.
So, please carefully read and understand this letter.
Then, if you agree that Double Voting is the right choice, support the demand.
In the words of Mehmood Shaam:
Khud bakhud hogi fehum-e-mustaqbil
Maazi o haal ko samajh pehle
You will understand the future better
Once you understand the past and present
We must convey to all non-Muslims, the advantages and disadvantages of the electoral systems of the past and the present. Then, we need to clearly explain this formula of Double Voting. Only an aware citizen can be an empowered one. Finally, and indispensably, we need to persuade the Muslim political elite.
Thus, for this campaign of awareness and empowerment of common non-Muslim citizens, please distribute this letter in churches, gurdwaras, temples or other places where religious meetings take place.
The next step is to convince the people sitting in the legislative houses in our name to raise their voices collectively in favor of this electoral system which will ensure the national, religious and communal identities of non-Muslim Pakistanis.
Tehreek-e-Shanakhat neither has any political agenda nor is it a doctrinal or ideological NGO. It is basically a self-financed awareness movement for establishing the honorable identity of Pakistani Christians in Pakistani society as rightful children of the soil.
Tehreek-e-Shanakhat is making efforts for non-Muslim citizens to lead a dignified and honorable life. The movement has thoroughly analyzed the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities & threats faced by Pakistani Christians and all Pakistani non-Muslims in order to set realistic and realizable community goals.
There are no office bearers in this movement but only volunteers. You, too, can be a volunteer to spread this way of thinking and this attitude, whatever your political affiliation may be.
We call upon all Muslim citizens, of all socio-economic categories who consider these non-Muslims to be fully Pakistani, to support the election of non-Muslim representatives to protect their religious identities.
We cordially and respectfully invite you all to become our comrades in this struggle while maintaining your own identity. Even our MNA and MPA brothers and sisters who will contest in elections under this future electoral system, are strongly encouraged to participate in this movement, lest the public should say about them in the words of Mohsin Bhopali:
nairañgī-e-siyāsat-e-daurāñ to dekhiye
manzil unheñ milī jo sharīk-e-safar na the
This is the political tragedy of the system
Those that reap the fruits are never part of the struggle
We are confident that this movement, founded on solid ideological grounds, will achieve its objectives. If you are a political leader, please don’t exclude yourself from it.
Come, let us reason together and join hands to spread this awareness campaign so that this electoral system is established for the basic civil and political rights of the present and future generations of non-Muslim Pakistanis.
Volunteer, Tehreek-e-Shanakhat Pakistan, an ideological movement.
Note: This letter was originally written in Urdu by Azam Mairajand has been translated to Sindhi for awareness of Pakistani Hindus as majority are Sindhi speaking. For “Story of Two Letters” this was translated to English by volunteer of Tehreek e Shanakhat US, Wajahat Zaheer.
Azam Mairaj is an estate agent by profession and a founder of an ideological movement, Tehreek-e-Shanakhat and an author of 13 books. “Neglected Christian Children of Indus” and “Shanakhat Nama, the Identity” are the two prominent books.