Report On the Activities of FI/OP: Religious discrimination in Pakistan

July 31 - April 18, 2000
Palais des Nations, Geneva

We have intervened every year since 1997 on the situation of religious intolerance and discrimination on the basis of religion in Pakistan and we again expressed our strong concern about the Blasphemy Laws and the Separate Electorate system. The latter is responsible for reinforcing segregation on the basis of religion among the citizens of Pakistan. Further, the Separate Electorate system silences the expression of political views of the religious minority in the country. It nullifies the significance of the votes of the minorities and renders the minority representatives ineffective. Moreover, the system negatively affects the social fabric of the country by stigmatizing religious minorities and exacerbates existing religious divisions by institutionalizing discrimination.

Furthermore, the Separate Electorate system which has been in effect since 1984 has the effect of denying religious minorities their right of universal adult franchise. Under the system, voters are not allowed to vote for candidates other than those of their own religious groups. Additionally, religious minorities can only elect 23 representatives to the four Provincial Assemblies which have a total of 483 representatives. The government implemented the changes before the 1985 election and has maintained the system through the four subsequent elections in 1988, 1990, 1993 and 1997.

The governing body of Pakistan announced, on August 14, 2000, changes in the present electoral system which religious minorities hoped would have taken into account their demands. Regretfully, the governmental authorities did not announce changes which would have brought an end to the separate electorate system and our partners there continue to advocate for justice and equality.

Many groups and organizations in Pakistan, including our partners in the National Commission for Justice and Peace of the Catholic Bishops of Pakistan and the Justice and Peace Commission of Religious Men and Women, have been involved in various activities including holding a major convention on the issue and collecting about two hundred thousand signatures from all segments of society. They continue to campaign for the restoration of the Joint Electorate System

Franciscans International and Dominicans for Justice and Peace, in conjunction with the Pakistan Bishops' Commission on Justice and Peace and the Commission on Justice and Peace of Religious men and women of Pakistan, urged the governmental authorities of Pakistan to respond positively to the demand of civil society to end the Separate Electorate system and to re-instate the Join Electorate system. We also asked the Sub-Commission to monitor the progress toward the implementation of full democracy in the country.

Summary Links Sub-Commission 2000:
Mexico, Pakistan, Iraq, indigenous peoples, economic and social rights
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UN Sub-Commission on Human Rights: Fifty-second session
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UN Sub-Commission on Human Rights: Fifty-second session