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02/06/2024 Pakistan (International Christian Concern) — Christians in Pakistan continue to be considered as second class citizens – a view that is continually reinforced at the highest levels of government. After nearly eight decades of independence and sovereignty, the Christian minority in Pakistan still strives to be viewed as equal in the country their forefathers fought for.

The upcoming elections later this week carry significant weight for all Pakistanis, including the Christian minority, as the outcome will shape the nation’s trajectory for the next five years. In the country’s short history, no government has yet completed a full five year term – a fact that the current candidates hope to change.

The key contenders in the upcoming elections are the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), and the Pakistan Muslim League (N), with the winner in Punjab expected to form the central government.

Two major Christian settlements in Lahore, Bahar Colony and Youhnabad, are in the spotlight, as both major party leaders are making them a focus of their campaign promises. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari of the PPP, and Maryam Nawaz of PML (N) have visited these Christian communities in the months leading up to the election, pledging a future where they will be recognized as equal citizens with protected rights.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari promised the Christian community equal rights, but concerns have arisen given that his own region, where his party holds power, has recorded the highest number of forced conversions annually. This raises doubts about the party’s ability to address such issues on a larger scale if they come to power.

Similarly, in response to the Jaranwala incident last year, during which a mob attacked Christian settlements and torched churches and homes, Maryam Nawaz made promises of ensuring equal rights for minorities if her party prevails. However, the lack of a single representation from PML(N) to console the victims raises questions about the party’s sincerity.

The Christian minority in Punjab constitutes a significant voting bloc, numbering around 17 million. Despite promises made during every election year, the community still finds itself waiting for any meaningful change to their political and economic situation. The upcoming elections will test whether the assurances given by political leaders translate into tangible improvements for Pakistan’s minority populations.