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The outcome of 2008 elections and Pakistani Minorities

By Sheraz Khurram Khan
2/27/08 PAKISTAN (ANS) — The victory of the Pakistan Peoples Party, a liberal party, in the recent parliamentary elections, has undisputedly resurrected hopes of all marginalized communities of the country, including Christians, vis-à-vis fulfillment of their long-standing demands.

In the wake of 9/11 attacks in New York City and Washington, DC, the Pakistan President agreed to join forces with the United States as an ally in the global war on terror. The stern stance of President Pervez Musharraf against the extremist forces gave Pakistani minorities a glimmer of hope that they will be able to breathe in a relatively less hostile climate. Despite the crackdown against the hardcore militants, reforms of Islamic schools and conferences and consultations on the theme of interfaith harmony the scale of religious intolerance remained unabated.

The pro-Musharraf party, Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid-e-Azam), which, virtually backed any stance that the Pakistan President ever took did not move to make even a single legislation to relieve the oppressed and down-trodden people of Pakistan, who have been reduced to lesser-Pakistanis, thanks to controversial amendments made in the constitution of Pakistan, that only discriminate against minorities.

On the contrary, when a minority representative Member of Parliament, Bhandara, brought to the floor a bill that sought amendment in the blasphemy laws last year the PML-Q party as well as the MPs of the religious alliance opposed it tooth and nail. MP Bhandara argued that all Pakistanis are “equal citizens” regardless of religious affiliation, and thus all should be “treated equally under the law.”

“The sacredness of our way of life that is more than mere religion must not be touched upon by anyone. This is the parliament of an Islamic State, not a secular one. No one can dare to present a bill here which hurts the sentiments of Muslims,” former Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Mr. Sher Afgan Niazi had then said in response to Bhandara’s bid to amend the country’s controversial laws.

Amid Pakistan President’s claims to transform Pakistan into a moderate and enlightened state the faith-based persecution in this Islamic state continued to surge. Minorities’ demands including enhancement of their representatives’ seats in the national and provincial assemblies of the four provinces, representation in Senate and repeal of discriminatory laws were not heeded.

The Islamists, who won some 56 parliament seats in the 2002 elections could only secure 3 seats in 2008 elections. They suffered a humiliating defeat in the NWFP as the people voted for the candidates of Awami National Party (ANP), a secular party.
As the Pakistan Peoples Party and the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), also a relatively liberal party, as compared to the Islamists parties, have agreed upon making a coalition government, the elected representatives of the minorities should do their level best to ensure that their long-standing demands are heeded.

The All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA), which allied with Pakistan Peoples Party, should make sure that it gets the PPP’s election manifesto concerning Pakistani minorities implemented. If minorities’ demands are not heeded this time then hopes are slim that they would ever be met. It is about time that the elected representatives of minorities got the legislation done in favor of minorities… [Go To Full Story]