A vendor arranges election party symbols, including lions for the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) of Shahbaz Sharif, head of the PML-N, and cricket bats for the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), led by former cricketer Imran Khan, at a stall in Rawalpindi on July 2. Pakistan will hold a general election on July 25. (Photo by Aamir Qureshi/AFP)
The party has come under repeated attack this year despite reversing an amendment to a clause in the Election Act regarding belief in the finality of prophethood at the end of 2017.
Religious parties claimed the constitutional amendment would have allowed members of the Ahmadi sect to vote freely as Muslims. The sect has been accused by mainstream Muslims of not recognizing Muhammad as the ultimate prophet.
The TLP has accused the PML-N of attacking the dignity of the prophet. Under the nation's controversial blasphemy laws, anyone accused of insulting God, Islam or the Prophet Muhammad can be sentenced to death.
Liberal Pakistanis have also expressed their disappointment with Imran Khan, a former star cricketer turned politician, who has defended the blasphemy laws in the run-up to the general election.
His critics say such tactics will cause more violence, citing PML-N ministers who were attacked in the wake of emotionally charged sermons and protests.
On July 4, an anti-terrorism court indicted the prime suspects in the shooting of former interior minister Ahsan Iqbal., who survived after being shot twice in the arm during a corner meeting of the party in Narowal district.
Police said in an interrogation report that the arrested gunman was a youth leader of the Islamist TLP party.Earlier in March, a man was arrested after he threw ink at Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif during the minister's speech at a PML-N workers convention in Sialkot city of Punjab province. The accused, who had no political background, said he was reacting to an attempt made by the former ruling party to amend the clause regarding the Prophet Muhammad. One day later, two men threw shoes at Sharif while he was about to address an event at a seminary in Lahore. In Arabic culture, hitting a person with your shoe is considered among the highest forms of insult. The three shoe throwers were also religious activists. Anti-Ahmadi agenda Independent candidates and those affiliated with religious parties are both playing the religious card in the run up to the poll, said Amir Mehmood, who handles communications for the Ahmadi sect, an Islamic religious movement based on the teachings of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908). "The recent attacks on veteran politicians have proved that such tactics only encourage more violence," he said. "The establishment is trying to mainstream banned extremist groups by bringing them into the political fold. Only law-abiding citizens should be permitted to contest the upcoming poll. "Some 167,505 Ahmadi voters are being denied the right to vote, but that's not the point. We want to cast our votes as ordinary Pakistani citizens. We reject all discrimination and injustice."
Ahmadis have refused to sign a registration form which states that if a voter claims to be a Muslim, they must not be associated with the Qadiani or Lahori group nor claim to be an Ahmadi.In fact, Ahmadis have disassociated themselves from participating in all elections since 2002 when a separate category was created for them through an executive order. They have disassociated themselves from participating in all elections since 2002 when former ruler Pervez Musharraf created a separate category for them (amid a series of anti-Ahmadi protests) despite restoring a joint electorate for selecting members of the National Assembly and provincial assemblies.
Under the joint electorate system, 3.63 million voters belonging to religious minorities elect local representatives in the national and provincial assemblies. Muslim parties then select minority MPs through a proportional representation system.Meanwhile, the Election Act 2017 retained a supplemental voting sheet that compels Muslim voters to sign a declaration rejecting the founder of the Ahmadi community as a false prophet. If anyone objects to a particular voter who identifies as being non-Muslim, the election commission has the power to summon that person and ask that they declare whether or not they are Ahmadi. If they are, their name will be put on a supplementary "special voter" list.
Ever since they were declared "non-Muslims" through a constitutional amendment in 1974, Ahmadis have become the most persecuted minority in Pakistan. Some 260 have been killed in hate crimes since 1984.The International Human Rights Committee (IHRC), a London-based organization, has called on Pakistan's government to do away with these discriminatory provisions, which effectively deny the Ahmadis the right to vote due to their religious beliefs. "The upcoming elections in Pakistan present an opportunity to correct this injustice and ensure all citizens have the right to vote irrespective of one's faith or religion," the IHRC said in a statement released on July 4. "There should only be one list for all voters which should not be referenced to faith or religions," it added.
UCA News provides a unique service, bringing you the voices of emerging churches and helping you see efforts made to evangelize and bring relief to people in all manner of need.
UCA News has more than 40 full time and part time reporters, editors and administrators bringing you this service from across 23 countries in south, southeast and east Asia. You, too, can be part of their efforts by contributing even a small amount to keep UCA News available to the world.
Click here to consider the options available to you.
Your contribution to UCA News will immensely help us continue to grow a strong media community by harnessing information technology to inform, engage, inspire and influence the Catholics of Asia and the world.
As a gesture of our gratitude to your commitment to UCA News, we are pleased to gift you a free PDF Book/e-Book titled Mission in Asia when you make a contribution.