Pakistani Shia Muslims carry 72 mock coffins during a mourning procession in Karachi on Sept. 12 to mark Muharram, the first Islamic month of the lunar calendar. A Christian lawmaker has failed in a bid to open up the positions of prime minister and president to non-Muslims. (Photo by Asif Hassan/AFP)
A Christian MP in Pakistan has slammed the ruling Justice party for rejecting his bill seeking to allow non-Muslim members of parliament to become president or prime minister of the country. Naveed Aamir Jeeva, a Christian lawmaker of the opposition Pakistan Peoples Party
, tabled the bill in the National Assembly. The bill proposed amendment to Articles 41 and 91 of the constitution that bar Christians and other non-Muslim minorities from getting elected as head of state. “A person shall not be qualified for election as president unless he is a Muslim of not less than 45 years of age and is qualified to be elected as a member of the National Assembly,” Article 41 states. Article 91 reads: “After the election of the speaker and the deputy speaker, the National Assembly shall, to the exclusion of any other business, proceed to elect without debate one of its Muslim members to be the prime minister.”
The lower house blocked the Christian MP’s bill with a majority vote following objections from a minister known for hardline views on Islam. Ali Muhammad, minister of state for parliamentary affairs, said: “Pakistan is an Islamic republic
where only a Muslim can be elevated to the slots of the president and prime minister. The minorities are enjoying complete freedom and security and their rights are being protected in Pakistan.” Maulana Abdul Akbar Chitrali, a member of Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami
, welcomed the government’s stance on the proposed amendment. “No law against Islamic values and teachings can be passed, introduced or even debated in the parliament,” he was quoted by The News as saying. The Christian lawmaker, however, said that he would continue to exercise his democratic right to introduce legislation. “It was disappointing that the ruling party opposed my bill. We believe every Pakistani citizen irrespective of his faith or color has the right to become prime minister or president,” Jeeva told ucanews.com. “If Christians, Hindus are other minorities enjoy equal rights, there should be no constitutional bar on them to lead this country. “Our democratic struggle for abrogation of discriminatory laws will continue despite setbacks and hurdles. Thankfully, I have full backing of my party. We will try and build a consensus, and table the bill again for debate.”
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