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The Joint electorate with SEPARATE Voting Lists

This dramatically oxymoronic title, unfortunately, represents the electoral system of Pakistan.  A joint electorate is an electoral system where irrespective of one’s religious affiliation, one can vote in the universal database of voters. Pakistan claims to have a very different understanding of the “joint” electoral system. Here we have the Joint electorate for every citizen of Pakistan but for Ahmadies.

A Pakistani citizenship is a major requirement for the basic right to vote as per the election rules, but we see the religious beliefs and the ideological beliefs of Ahmadies are put to scrutiny and are made the basis for their systematic segregation from the voting procedure of the country. In order to be able to register their vote, they are to dissociate from the Prophet (PBUH) and appear on the separate voting list.

joint electorate but separate voting
Image source: Tribune.com

Around four to five million Ahmadies remain in their homes every election as they are separated from the electoral system by the country’s joint yet separate electoral system. While the entire population of Pakistan, irrespective of their religious affiliation find their names in a joint list, Ahmadis  have their own “Ahmadi/ Qadiani” list, and the purpose is not to assist them in finding their names on the list, it’s to make sure that a threatened minority is mentioned on a separate list, with their updated addresses. (Which exposes them to a security risk as well but that is no one’s concern)

From 1947 to 1984 every Pakistani voted on a joint electorate, in 1974, they were constitutionally declared as “non-Muslims” and a decade later, Pakistan’s most Islamic dictator, Zia-Ul-Haq issued further ordinance of imprisonment of any Ahmadi posing as Muslim.(3 years of imprisonment for saying salam, offering prayers or in any way acting like Muslims)

In 1985 a separate voting list for all religious minorities was brought into action and Ahmadis were required to follow through the above-mentioned procedure from that day forth. All the minorities of Pakistan were given the 5% of the seats in the national assembly after voting under the separate electorate. Ahmadis saw such self- dissociation with Prophet Muhammad as “too high a price to pay for our fundamental right to vote,” and sat out during the next election.

Right to vote

In Musharaf’s era the USCIR (United States Commission on International Religious Freedom pressurized Pakistan to put an end to the anti-Ahmadi discrimination in Pakistan, as a response to the newfound democratic pressure,  general Pervaiz Musharaf proposed a joint electorate in 2002. Upon this, everything from his background, to his religious affiliation, was under rigorous scrutiny by the Pakistani clerics, Musharaf found a solution to the problem in allowing the Hindus, Christians and the other minorities to be allowed to vote on the joint electorate, everyone but the Ahmadis, who were given the gift of  an exclusive “supplementary voter list”.

To this day, in order to be able to vote, an Ahmadi is required to denounce himself as Muslim. Which they remain unwilling to do and hence remain separated from the voting procedure of the democratic country of Pakistan where they are separate but on paper, equal.

The spokesperson of the community has repeatedly attempted to contact the election commission of Pakistan for the resolution of the issue, but the resilient bigotry and hatred towards the community prevents from any solution to be adapted.

This is the worst kind of discrimination and such bigotry runs against the conventions on human rights that Pakistan has signed, and yet no one bats an eye.





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