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Minorities want rights lawyer for caretaker PM

Asma Jahangir nominated as interim leader

Minorities want rights lawyer for caretaker PM
Asma Jahangir greets Church workers reporter, Lahore

February 26, 2013

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Religious minorities are calling for prominent human rights lawyer Asma Jahangir to serve as the caretaker premier during upcoming elections.


The government announced last month that assemblies will be dissolved before March 16 and the elections will be held within 90 days. The interior minister has warned of more terror attacks in the weeks leading up to the polls, but neither the government nor the National Assembly opposition leader have agreed on the selection of a caretaker prime minister yet.  


Representatives of more than 30 minority organizations announced their support yesterday for Asma Jahangir, former chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, as the ideal candidate.

On Saturday, Jahangir told reporters she had no interest in the position. However, religious, political and NGO leaders are hoping she will change her mind. 

“We have known [Jahangir] for more than two decades; we can swear on her honesty and impartiality which is beyond extremist and communal divides. We salute her courageous stand for minorities and bonded laborers," said Irfan Barkat, head of the Lahore archdiocese housing scheme.    

Jahangir has campaigned for women's and minorities' rights, for the abolition of blasphemy laws, and against the politicization of state institutions. 

Islamic parties called the nomination a conspiracy to delay elections and vowed to oppose it. They also accused Jahangir of working to repeal blasphemy laws with Western money and aiding India.

Hindu activists welcomed her nomination, but said they need more than just fair elections for real change. 

“There is no denying her services for us. However an interim set up will not be able to make tough policies against forced conversions or for our representation in provincial assemblies," said Amarnath Randhava, general secretary of the Hindu Sudhar Sabha.

Although the ruling government increased the number of seats reserved for minorities in the National Assembly from 10 to 14, there are still only eight Hindus in the lower house representing the 4.2 million Hindus in the country.

“Minorities can vote for candidates in the national and provincial elections but the choice of reserved minority seats remains at the whims of political party leaders. Resultantly selected people only appease their selectors, not the voters. Things become worse in provinces like Punjab where we have not had a representative since 1992 and have not received any development funds for two decades," said Ravandha.

Professor Kalyan Singh, general secretary of Guru Nanak Ji Mission, said the country desperately needs a government head with a human rights background.  

“We want someone who knows our issues. A majority of our population has already fled the Taliban-infested northern tribal areas. I hope Asma will do something about it if she comes to power," he said.

Human Liberation Commission Pakistan pleaded that the minorities needed her as their voice.

“Our rights have been violated since the creation of this country," it said in a statement. "Religious laws are subjecting us to tyranny. Christians have been burnt alive in their houses on false accusations. None of the minority members are in key posts. All administrative and political positions are occupied by landlords, industrialists and religious extremists."

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