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PESHAWAR: Speakers at a seminar on Saturday urged the political parties to award tickets to non-Muslims on general seats as well as they were also the citizens of the country.

Titled ‘provincial consultation on the rights of religious minorities’ the seminar was organised by National Commission for Justice and Peace in collaboration with South Asia Partnership Pakistan.

Those who shared their views regarding minority rights and share of non-Muslim Pakistanis in the upcoming general elections and their quota included Hashim Raza Advocate, Arshad Haroon, Sikander Zaman, Kashif Aslam, Qamar Naseem and representatives from different civil society organisations working on human rights.

They lamented that population of non-Muslim Pakistanis was shown lesser in the recent national census, saying that they were 23 per cent of the total population when Pakistan came into being with a Muslim population of above 75 million, while the population of Muslims had increased to 220 million, but that of minorities decreased throughout the country in the official record.

From among the 272 general seats at least on 82 seats the vote difference had been recorded hardly at 10,000 hence, in the constituencies where the minority votes were 10,000 or more they could play a vital role for the winning of a candidate, they pointed out.

On the occasion, Hashim Raza said if the political parties awarded tickets to minority candidates for contesting election on general seats the pace of polarisation in the society on the basis of religion would slow and non-Muslims would also show love for their parties.

Radesh Singh Tony, a candidate for PK-75, Peshawar, demanded that reserved seats for minorities should be increased from three to six -- two for Christians, one for Hindus and one for Sikh community -- while two for non-Muslims living in the newly-merged Fata.

Kashif Aslam, a representative of NCJP, said there were lot of issues being faced by the minorities but no one was serious to resolve them on permanent basis.

He said whichever party formed government in the province after the July 25 elections should focus on resolution of the core issues of the religious minorities, including family laws, implementation on quota system and setting up of crematoriums for Hindu and Sikh communities.

Published in Dawn, July 15th, 2018