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What does the election calculus show?

April 11, 2013

— Illustration by Faraz Aamer Khan/Dawn.com

KARACHI: With the pawns in chessboard politics being moved this way and that, is anyone paying attention to where the minorities will go these coming elections? Dawn.com asked Adnan Rehmat, who heads Islamabad-based Intermedia, a media development organisation committed to recording violations of media freedom and enhancing freedom, to shed light on which party will curry favour with them.

The season of discontent has not abated in Punjab for the Christian community under Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N’s) government.

"It's hard to imagine faith-based minorities - such as Christians in Punjab - voting for PML-N because under Shahbaz Sharif's rule in the province there have been three significant attacks on their community over the past five years that have resulted in several deaths and widespread destruction of property.

PML-N's bent toward supporting certain a sect is ‘no secret’, said Rehmat and this would find little favour among faith-based minorities.

"After Gojra, Shantinagar and Joseph Colony, I would imagine they would lose whatever little support they had," he said.

In addition, he said the PML-N's "dubious electoral understanding" with anti-Shia and anti-Ahmadi sectarian groups all but "assure PML-N not getting any sizable chunk of votes of faith-based minorities".

On the other hand, said Rehmat, PPP will benefit as he sees most Shias of Pakistan, voting for PPP because the party has lost leaders defending minorities and standing up for them.

The swing of victory or defeat of the political parties is quite clear to Rehmat. The voters from faith-based minorities are going to vote, in general, for PPP because the party lost leaders - such as Punjab governor, Salman Taseer.

Taseer expressed his support for a jailed Christian woman accused of blasphemy and had been calling for changes to the blasphemy law. He was killed by his own guard influenced by extremist clerics. The party also lost a Christian federal minister who was assassinated allegedly by militants.

"The PPP is avowedly secular and emphasizes inclusive, participatory politics and stands up for the rights of minorities more often, more vociferously than others do," points out Rehmat.

While the Muttahida Qaumi Movement is also secular, Rehmat said its appeal lay in ethnicity rather than pan-Pakistan pluralism of nationalities and sects.

As for Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf, Rehmat is not too sure if the former will "endear" himself to faith-based minorities what with him "wearing religion on the sleeve", referring to him offering namaz on the stage in his October 12 rally, in Lahore.

"With Imran Khan an ardent advocate of talking to the Taliban - the 40,000 families that have lost their loved ones to terrorism at the hands of Taliban and Al Qaeda and the 180 million others who live in the mortal fear of the state falling to Taliban won't plump for PTI," explains Rehmat.