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Monday, 8 April 2013

Minorities hold the key in eight of Sindh’s districts

Minorities hold the key in eight of Sindh’s district

Hindu community is the largest minority registered in Sindh. PHOTO: FILE
If minorities’ votes were to affect the outcome of elections anywhere in Pakistan, it would be in eight of Sindh’s 13 districts.
According to ECP records the Hindu community is the largest minority registered in Sindh. But the trend continues all over Pakistan, and not just in Sindh alone. Collectively, all the minorities constitute 2.78 million registered voters. Experts believe that the fate of elections could be impacted substantially by the votes of minority communities in districts where they have a larger share of the total registered votes, but only if they decide to vote en bloc.
In Karachi (south), 81,589 of the registered voters are non-Muslim, which is eight percent of the total.
Hindus constitute the highest number of minorities’ votes in the country with 1.4 million registered voters, followed by 1.24 million Christians. There are some 115,966 registered Ahmadi voters who mostly reside in Lahore and Chiniot districts of Punjab.
Overall, in Chiniot and Lahore districts, there are 35,335 and 247,827 non-Muslim voters, respectively, constituting 6 per cent of the total registered voters.
Besides Hindus, Christians and Ahmadis, a number of Parsi, Sikh, Buddhist and Jewish voters will also be exercising their statutory right to vote in the May 11 elections.
According to the Final Electoral Rolls of the Election Commission of Pakistan, there are 5,934 Sikh, 3,650 Parsi, 1,452 Buddhist and 809 Jewish voters registered in Pakistan who will be exercising their right to vote in the upcoming elections.
Minorities’ separate electorates were abandoned in the 2002 general elections, allowing them to contest on general seats, with 10 seats reserved for minorities in the National Assembly.
And yet, according to Free and Fair Elections Network Chief Executive Officer Mudassir Rizvi, general tickets are not awarded easily to minorities.
“No mainstream political party awards general seat ticket to minorities,” he said.
Rizvi added that in the areas where minorities form a majority among the total number of registered voters, such as the Umerkot district in Sindh, they traditionally vote for the mainstream political parties. It is the general perception of supposed individual benefits to be obtained from a party candidate that determines voting patterns for minorities in these regions.
However, separate voter lists are prepared for Ahmadis.
“They are singled out on the basis of religion,” said Rizvi, adding that all other minorities, such as Hindus and Christians, are included in the general lists.
The majority of Ahmadis have always boycotted elections. They refuse to be declared non-Muslims, and taking part in the polls would be an acceptance of this declaration.
“Yet, some groups among Ahmadis do take part and usually vote for mainstream parties,” said Rizvi.