Caste makes them outcast

January 21, 2012

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Unlike the pre-1997 system, when the Hindu community would directly vote for the candidates of their choice to elect representatives for the non-Muslim seats, now all minorities cast their votes like general voters for their favorite party and the winning party then selects candidates to fill non-Muslim seats in the national and provincial assemblies. - File photo

 

ISLAMABAD: Lower castes of the Hindu community in the country feel hurt by our leaders' claims about democratic rights as they are excluded even from whatever representation the minority has in political bodies.

Not a single Hindu from the so-called lower Scheduled caste occupies the seats meant for nonMuslims in the National Assembly, the Senate and the provincial assemblies.

'Political parties keep giving these seats to Hindus from the upper castes who then pretend that they represent all Hindus,' Chairman Scheduled Caste Rights Movement (SCRM), Ramesh Jaipal, told Dawn.

'How can these 'representatives' do anything for us when they are not even willing to sit in our vicinity or eat from the same plate as us?' he said. 'We are a neglected people, we are poor and not well educated and face tremendous challenges, we need representation to bring about change.

The total number of seats in the National Assemblyis 342. Of these, 10 are designated as seats for nonMuslims, four of which are supposed to be for Hindus.

In provincial assemblies, the seats for non-Muslims are 23.

'Before, we always had at least one MPA in Punjab from the Scheduled Hindus caste and representation in the National Assembly as well, however, with the current system where parties select people to fill the seats for minorities, we have not had any representation anywhere in the country since 1997,' explained Jaipal.

'The process to fill minority seats without elections is undemocratic and against the spirit of the constitution,' declared former federal minority minister, Julius salik, when asked about the current system of filling minority seats.

No surprise then that at a World Minority Alliance's event on Thursday to give 'Tribute to Democracy', the emphasis was on formulating a system where minorities are given more say in who represents them.Former British MP, Mohammad Sarwar, criticised the system of electing minority seats in Pakistan which forces a candidate to become member of a political party.

He called for giving two votes to minority voters: one for electing general legislator and the other for minority seat legislator.

Unlike the pre-1997 system, when the Hindu community would directly vote for the candidates of their choice to elect representatives for the non-Muslim seats, now all minorities cast their votes like general voters for their favorite party and the winning party then selects candidates to fill non-Muslim seats in the national and provincial assemblies.

'So what do the Scheduled Caste Hindus want? A substantial variety wants some sort of electoral option where their representatives are 'elected' rather than 'selected'. A dual vote where we can vote for the minority seats as well as take part in the majority election and vote for the party of our choice,' explained Jaipal.