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Punjab alters poll process; Christians protest on decrease of reserve seats

Robin Daniel
Robin Daniel declares the move “Social Murder” for non-Muslim Pakistanis

Uproar began in Punjab as Punjab government changed the procedure of election of candidates for reserved seats. According to the new procedure, instead of allowing the party members to vote for their colleagues for the reserved seats, including the seats for women, youth, peasants, and non-Muslims, the candidates will now be ‘selected’ by the party’s leadership. The change has been made through and ordinance days after the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) announced its schedule to fill the seats.

The amended law not only changes the procedure for election of mayors/chairpersons from secret to show of hands but also deprives the local bodies to convene their maiden session(s) after election of their mayors/chairpersons on their own and instead empowers the provincial government to call the first meeting(s).

The ordinance, in addition to all this has reduced the non-Muslim seats while increasing the regular seats from a 100 to 300 percent.

The ordinance was disseminated by the governor on January 20, and conveyed to Election Commission on January 21.

The ordinance has infuriated the opposition which says it is unconstitutional with ‘mala fide’ intentions.

Former Punjab Minister, Muhammad Basharat Raja said the government acted “unconstitutionally” and “illegally” as the law could not be changed once the election schedule was announced.

Christian political leaders see the move as an attempt to further decrease the non-Muslim participation in the government circles and decision making process. In this context, prominent Christian leader Robin Daniel met with civil society organization, and other religious and political leadership including the National Minorities Alliance of Pakistan (NMAP), Aawaz District Forum Faisalabad (SAP) and Ittehad Labor Union in this regard. The group staged a protest in Faisalabad on Friday, January 28, 2016 at Ketchery Bazar Chok, Faisalabad.

Protesters demanded non-Muslim seats to be restored without delay. Robin Daniel called the move “social murder” of non-Muslim Pakistanis.