The National Commission for Justice and Peace holds a consultation meeting in Karachi on Sindh's local government system and religious minorities. (Photo supplied)
Minority rights activists in Pakistan have called for Sindh's government and political parties to introduce a fair local government system that benefits marginalized communities along with the Muslim majority.
The demand came during a consultation meeting convened by the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), the human rights arm of the Catholic Church, in Karachi on the issue of Sindh's local government system and religious minorities.
The meeting was attended by civil society organizations, parliamentarians and former members of the local government.
Kashif Aslam, an NCJP national coordinator, urged respective governments and departments to include religious minorities in the local government system so that true and active leadership for the rights of religious minorities could emerge in Pakistan.
“The last term of the Sindh local government ended in August 2020; hence, there is a need to call upon the current government and relevant authorities to start working on a local government system which has true representation of minorities through a direct vote," Aslam said.
Naveed Anthony, a Catholic lawmaker from the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party, urged minority youths to become part of mainstream political parties. “By joining mainstream parties, youths can carry their religious identity and reach out to common people of our communities on their doorsteps.”
Zahid Farooq, a Christian human rights activist and a member of the Urban Resource Centre, said it was minorities’ responsibility to work in unity and demonstrate the power of voting.
“We have to bargain with political parties on the basis of our vote bank and then look forward for their positive response in the local government system,” Farooq said.
Pakistan has three tiers of government: national, provincial and local. Local government is protected by the constitution, while each province also has its own legislation and ministries responsible for implementation.
District councils and metropolitan corporations are respectively the highest rural and urban tiers of local government in provinces. Both urban and rural local governments have two or three tiers in all provinces except Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where councils are not identified as either urban or rural.