Original Articles

The political tragedy of non-Muslim Pakistanis – by Azam Mairaj

All Pakistan Christian LeagueEditor’s Note: All non-Muslim Pakistanis need to be respected and given full rights as Pakistani Citizens. In particular the services of the Christian Community in the fields of education, health and a number of other areas are disproportionately large compared to the size of the small minority population, this needs to be recognized. 

As far as religions go there are no two religions that have more common beliefs the Islam and Christianity. We are all waiting for the return of Jesus a.s. We should take more about what we have in common.  

The locals of Indus Valley (Present Pakistan) with the compulsion of history have been relegated to second class status in their own land. These sons of soil, the Christians, have fought with many invaders centuries ago and they still persist this struggle to make their voice prominent in the Pakistani society.

Their contribution can be traced back to the time of partition, when Christians supported Jinnah and Gandhi for the opposition against British Raj. And later Christians like Deewan Bahudar, S.P Singha, Fazl Ellahi, C.E Gibbon and Sir William Robertson voted in favor of Pakistan in the undivided Punjab Assembly. Its worth to mention that only two parties of undivided Punjab Assembly voted for Pakistan: the Pakistan Muslim League and the Mashiee party. It’s a history that has never been quoted that most of the predecessors of today’s rulers and policy makers of Pakistan did not vote for Pakistan.

Moreover,the Christians have had an immense role in the construction of Pakistan. They have contributed in fields of education, health care, sanitation and in every other field of society. Their role has been prior to their population number. In the Pakistan Air Force, the Christians have received seven sitara-e-jurat (star of courage) out of a total of seventy. And there have been many Tamgha-e-basalat and other decorated Shudda(martyrs) and ghazis (victorious soldiers) in Pakistani army. Since 1948 Kashmir Jihad to this day the Christian community has sacrificed approximately 100 lives. It is however unfortunate and shocking that a community that has participated with such zeal and passion in its society’s growth and sacrificed their lives but no Christian has ever been nominated by any Pakistani Political Party for direct elections. Said to be build for justice, philanthropies, politics and the state but these parties have never nominated any Christian members. Till now, no Christian has been ever nominated for a seat of National or Provincial assembly let alone winning a direct election.According to a report that the number of non Muslim voters can have a significant effect on the results of 91 seats of national assembly and 191 seats of provincial assemblies. In the 65 years political regime (be of democracy or dictatorship) and in the elections Christians have never been nominated by any Pakistani Political Party from out of 849 constituencies. It is unclear that is this due to the inefficiency or inability of the Christians or is it that the leaders of these parties are not far-sighted. For the thorough comprehension of this issue we need to study that how time and again these sons of soil have been obstructed from their rights. But the point to be noted is that the non-muslims of Pakistan are not normally considered a minority unlike Muslims who migrate to Europe, or America. The Christians are true Pakistanis and are more patriotic than most of their fellow country-men.

In the creation of Pakistan, the participation of sons of soil has a significant value. The fact that proves this is their keenness and enthusiasm in their country’s creation and development. They have also sacrificed their life when needed. In the campaign of the Pakistan Kaumi Itthad (Pakistan National Movement PNA) the whole nation was divided into two parts. Some were opposing this campaign and some were in favor of this campaign. History decides who was right and who was wrong and history is deciding. On 22 May 1977 in Sialkot Irfan Aziz son of Aziz Humdum was shot in a rally of Pakistan Kaumi Ittehad. And many Pakistanis believe him to be a martyr. Similarly, when Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was sentenced to death, Yaqub Pervez Kokhar, a zealous worker and a fanatic of Zulfiqar Bhutto, appealed to Zia-ul-Haq against the death penalty and gave a deadline. And stated if the appeal would not be accepted he would set himself on fire. After the deadline on 15 October 1978, when he was addressing a rally at Morey Gate Lahore he set himself on fire and is considered a martyr by most of the Pakistanis.

But the blood of these martyrs has not been successful in getting the Christian workers their legal rights. The rights that an independent state’s independent citizen has. Even to this day no Pakistani Political Party has ever nominated any Christian candidate for its electoral constituency. But in the past for the votes of their non-Muslim voters through separate electorates these candidates have run separate campaigns. And afterwards they become one vote for any party according to their own will or for their benefits. Now the situation has become more ironic. After the election the wining political party nominates the member of National Assembly as the representative of the minorities but actually these members do not represent their respective communities but they act as puppets of the political party that nominated it. And they follow the party policy even if it is against the rights of their respective unfortunate non-Muslims Pakistani community. Even though, this system of the allowance of direct vote for the non-muslims is highly appreciated as it makes them feel more like a true Pakistani but no non-Muslim can ever aspire to be a president or prime minister of Pakistan. The direct elections are a positive electoral system in which they have only become 75% Pakistani, as they still cannot even submit a paper of nomination for some constitutional seats for President and Prime Minister etc in the country where their ancestors have been living from thousands of years. Maybe, in the coming times the sacrifice of Yaqub Pervez Kokhar and Irfan Aziz can help the non-muslims to have the right to directly participate in the governance of their country. And help the coming generation to live as complete and independent citizens. Even though the non-muslims have been fighting for their rights even before the Pak movement was engendered, but it is unfortunate that these non Muslims especially the second largest minority the Christian community has not been able to tell the election commission about which way of electoral will make them feel like a complete and independent Pakistani citizens.

After the creation of Pakistan the first elections were held in 1951 when people belonging only to the upper-class did cast a vote and these voters only decided that who could be a better representative of minorities. Likewise, in the Constitutional Assembly formed in 1954 and 1956 the candidates chosen by these voters again were appointed as the representatives of minorities. After the 1958 Marshall Law in 1962 through Basic Democracy only a particular group of the BD members could cast vote and through this system no Christian was nominated. First time in Pakistan’s history in 1970 the one man one vote electoral system was introduced. These were held on the same bases therefore once again no non-Muslim became the member of the National and Provincial assembly. As a result, the non-muslims strongly appealed for separate electorates. It should not be forgotten that the parliament when passed the constitution of 1973, did not have any Christian member. Therefore, the Christian Political Party, Pakistan Christian League started a campaign against the fact that they did not have a Christian representative in the Assembly and also that the Christian institutions were being taken by the government. On 28 August 1972 their procession circled the National Assembly led by Professor Salmat Akhtar who was the General Secretary of the Christian League Punjab. The government ordered to open fire at this procession as a result R.M James and Nawaz Masih were martyred. Seventy people were injured and about three thousand were prisoned.

This protest can be credited for sowing its seeds for the passing of the policy that representatives of the minorities to be made through nomination but of course these representatives were not true representatives of the minorities as they were just the representatives of their party.

After this in 1982 Christian representatives in the Majlis-e-Shoora were also chosen by nomination. After thirty-eight years of creation of Pakistan, in 1985 for the first time it was passed that the representatives of minorities would also be chosen by separate electoral systems and the Electoral College was the whole community. And the system of electorates was decided without any premeditation and was imposed on the minorities.
This way the whole country was made a constituency for representatives of minorities in National Assembly. And for the Provincial seat the whole province was made a constituency. It was a practical joke in the name of separate electoral systems because this way they were portrayed as untouchables, who would not campaign for the votes from all the Pakistanis but only voters of their community. Most of the individuals of non-Muslim of Pakistan, except few individuals, already struggle against financial issues and for them the whole Pakistan was made a constituency. But these unfortunate people did take part in the separate electoral of 1985, 1986, 1990, 1993 and 1997.

For a minority voter it was a political disaster that any candidate from Peshawar who was financially able could take votes from the Karachi voters. But afterwards the candidate did not meet the voter and nor could the voter have access to the candidate to discuss to their leader their problems. Therefore, the non-Muslims of Pakistan spent the first thirty-eight years without representation and the second phase of their political journey of 14 years starting from 1985 to 1999 with a so-called representation. This comical electoral system applied for 14 years was only criticized and protested by few political activists like J.Salick. And others joined with excitement and the joy of the financial and social beneficiary coming with the seat of parliament and provincial assemblies while pretending to be serving their respective communities. After 14 years in 2002 non-Muslim voters again became the Pakistani voters from their achoot (untouchable) personalities through mix electoral system. With pen prick of a dictator General Pervez Musharraf and he compensated this injustice of predecessor General Zia who imposed this electoral system on non-Muslims.

With a lot of hurdles and suppression on these non Muslims mentally and politically and this era was a dark age of political journey of non-Muslims political activist.

Now from the year 2002 to this year 2013 till this system is kept these Pakistanis are able to run in their country’s race. But still till now in this election system there is no representation of minorities but on the other hand any political party appoints a Christian, Hindu, Sikh or Parse as its representative and gives it a seat in the Assembly. Till now the policy makers have not made any apt policies for the non-muslims and nor have the nominal representatives of minorities have presented to the policy makers with a policy showing a complete comprehension of ground realities. Also they have never demonstrated to the policy makers that how through the mix elections their voice was hindered from being heard in the legislature assemblies. And also how the separate electorates made them appear as untouchables.

Political Survival:
Our today’s respectable Political personalities two of whom I personally know. Emanuel Zafar and Professor SalmatAkhtar, these people have worked with the supporters of Quaid-e-Azam in Tehrik-e-Pakistan like DeewanBahudar, S P Singha, C E Gibbon, Fazal Din and many others Christian leaders on different political forums. These people are the living witness of the 65 year political history of Pak. They have not only observed the establishment period of the 65 year political history of Pakistan as an analyst but also have been a part of this democratic struggle. And even political scientists and political students of this school of thought like me identify the electoral system for non-muslims to be the cause behind their social and political suppression. The mix election with nomination of their community representative is not suitable for the growth of the minorities as this system does not give them representation and this system made on the democratic bases allows but for dictatorial acts as the party then appoints any party member as the representative of minorities. Moreover, the separate electoral system does not make the non-Muslims feel like a true Pakistani and an independent citizen. The only way they can get this right is if they are granted the right to cast two votes. One vote can be cast to decide that which ruling party would prove a better government for Pakistan and can serve the nation and protect its ideological and geographical boundaries. The second vote can decide who would be a better representative and protector of their religion and would raise his voice in the assemblies for their rights. But the same electoral system of the year 1985 to the year 1999 should not be imposed but a well-thought policy showing sound judgment of pros and cons should be established in the electoral constituency. According to the latest report by the Election Commission of May 2013 till now there are 8,60,89,802 (eight croresixety lakh eighty nine thousand and eight hundred and two) registered voters. And the number of general seats in the National Assembly is 272 this means that Pakistan National Assembly’s one seat consists of 3, 16,874 votes. And if in any province the number of minority voters is 3, 16,874 so the whole province can be an electoral constituency for a seat of National Assembly. As a whole province’s votes depend on 4 or 3 seats in the National Assembly. So likewise these electoral constituencies could be made small by dividing them into urban and rural regions. The same formula can be applied for provincial constituencies. The need is that the policy makers should be provided with correct facts, and figures about the total voters at National and provincial level and also about the position of voters at rural and urban levels.In this computerized era it is an easy job, and if the so-called representatives want to persuade the policy makers so they can do the research on their own. But if they would not be able to do this (they of course would not be able to do this by themselves as these flaws only make them perfect so-called representatives and also their job is to rule not to work) so the Churches that have been from many decades working for the socio-economic, cultural and economic progress of the Christian community could also provide these facts. This electronic era has resulted in an independent election Commission, judiciary and media. And if these forums are used effectively so these figures can be accessed. This way the sixty-five year political struggle of these sons of soil will come to its final destination. Even though the so-called Christian representatives will have more objection than the policy makers but this struggle will not let go in vain the sacrifice of R.M James and Nawaz Masih, who died for the recognition of their religious identity. Non-Muslims getting the rights of living like an independent Pakistani citizen would also requite the blood of the martyrs like Irfan Aziz and Yaqub Pervez Kokhar who wrote with their blood on the leafs of the political history of Pakistan. Not only the new coming generation dreams of this change but also the makers of this state shared the same dream. That every citizen would have an equal right for participation in political activity and to follow any religion like the Constitution of Pak grants to the non-Muslims of Pak/ sons of soil. Thus our political parties should also think about this issue.

This article was published on 3rd of May, 2013 in Jang Karachi.And now translated by Michelle Azam Mairaj for social awareness of sons of soil/ non-Muslim Pakistanis. Who are treated as foreigners on the land of their ancestors and for those who due to these kinds of social injustice and ruling class ignorance has forced them to leave their native land and have migrated to distant lands.
By: AzamMairaj