ISLAMABAD: Around 26 per cent of union councils in the federal capital do not have a single seat for non-Muslims while six candidates are to be elected unopposed on the seats reserved for the minority communities.

A list compiled by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) showed that 13 out of the 50 UCs in Islamabad do not have any seat for non-Muslims.

An ECP official explained that under the law a councilor seat was created for non-Muslims in any union council if there are a minimum of 200 minority votes in that UC.

Incidentally, most of the UCs without any non-Muslim seats are located in areas falling in the jurisdiction of NA-49, which is towards the north side of 7th Avenue, including localities from G-6 sector to Bhara Kahu and onwards to the boundary of Murree tehsil.

ECP official explains a seat for minorities is created if there are at least 200 non-Muslim votes in that UC

“The main reason why there is no seat for non-Muslims in this part is that there are huge tracts of rural areas in NA-49,” said Sibti Shah, the president of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Islamabad chapter.

He said most of non-Muslims in these areas were Christians who migrated to Islamabad from central Punjab.

However, he added, “There are seats for non-Muslims in many UCs with new settlements. In UC-12 Rawat, our candidate is set to win as there is only one independent competitor for the seat of non-Muslims.”

Among the six candidates who are to be elected unopposed, three are from the PML-N - UC-23, UC-45 and UC 34 - and one each belongs to the PTI (UC-19), Pasban Party (UC-36) and an independent in UC-6.

At the same time, two candidates belonging to the PML-N have strong chances to get elected as their opponents are independent candidates.

The PML-N is the only major party that has fielded candidates for the non-Muslim seats in UC-11, which is near Kirpa and UC-14 Sihala. Both of them have to face independent candidates.

Since the final list of candidates has yet to be released by the ECP, the contestants are still unaware of their standing in the arena.

Meanwhile, some political workers expressed surprise that few UCs had no competition.

“This was unexpected for us. If we would have known of this, we would have fielded our candidates for the seats,” said Ammar Rashid, a senior office-bearer of Awami Workers Party (AWP) that has been working for the rights of katchi abadis.

On the other hand, four UCs have the strongest competitions on the non-Muslim seats with seven candidates contesting for each of them.

These are: UC-21 which includes Sohan, Khana Kak and Shakrial, UC-28, housing France Colony in F/7 and the F-8 sector.

UC-31 in Sector G-7 which has two large katchi abadis. The fourth union council with seven candidates for one non-Muslim seat is UC-33 which comprises G-8 sector, including G-8/1 katchi abadi.

The major parties, including the PPP, PML-N, PTI and Jamaat-i-Islami, have fielded candidates for the non-Muslim seats in these four UCs.

Published in Dawn, November 24th, 2015