All of Pakistan’s minorities will vote on May 11, except the Ahmadis

The Friday Times

There are nearly three million registered minority voters in Pakistan, according to NADRA, of which 200,000 belong to the Ahmadiyya Community. All of the minorities will cast their votes on May 11 under a joint electorate system, except the Ahmadis. There is a separate voters list for them, that has been alienating them from the democratic process since 1977.

The Ahmadiyya Community took part in the creation of Pakistan lending full support to All India Muslim League. At that time, Ahmadis were legally Muslims although many Muslim clerics believed they were not.

Sir Zafarullah Khan, Pakistan’s first foreign minister, was an Ahmadi. The only Pakistani Nobel laureate – Dr Abdus Salam – was also an Ahmadi.

The Ahmadiyya Community had been participating in the elections in India, and after 1947, they had been a part of the political process in Pakistan. They took part in the elections under a joint electorate system until 1977, despite the Second Amendment in the Constitution that declared Ahmadis as non-Muslim in 1974. It was military dictator Gen Ziaul Haq, who in a bid to legitimize his unconstitutional rule, wooed religious leaders by marginalizing the minorities by scrapping the joint electorate system in 1985 through the 8th Amendment to the Constitution. After that, there were separate electoral lists for minorities. Muslims voters had to sign an affidavit that said:

“Ahmadis don’t have the right to live in Pakistan”

“I solemnly affirm that I believe completely and unconditionally in the finality of the prophet-hood of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and that I am not a follower of any person who claims prophet-hood on the basis of any interpretation of this word, neither I believe such a claimant to be a reformer or a prophet, nor I belong to Qadyani or Lahori group or call myself Ahmadi.”

Under international pressure, the next military ruler Gen Pervez Musharraf revoked separate electorate for minorities, but made a special exception for Ahmadis under the chief executive’s order No 15 of 2002 published in the Gazette of Pakistan (extraordinary) issued at Islamabad on June 17, 2002. The argument is, if the Ahmadis are non-Muslims according to the Constitution, then they must have equal rights that the same Constitution guarantees to other non-Muslims. Ironically, all the non-Muslims can cast votes under the joint electorate except the Ahmadis. This makes them inferior to other minorities. If the Constitution has to be followed, then Ahmadis too should be given the right to vote like other non-Muslims.

The same discrimination kept the Ahmadis away from polling stations in 2002 and 2008. Other minorities, however, cast their votes under joint electorate. Thus, the Ahmadis have been deprived of their democratic right since 1977.

The Ahmadiyya Community has called on the Chief Election Commissioner Fakhruddin G Ebrahim and other officials of the Election Commission in the form of a delegation and apprised them of this discrimination. But despite promises, no action has been taken to address the grievances.

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