Herald magazine publishes some of the best longform news in Pakistan and their February issue has an in-depth story on the issues surrounding the electoral representation of non Muslims in Pakistan. The story is now available online and we’re featuring it as our story of the day today.
Some important facts and figures from the story:
• The issue of joint electorate versus separate electorates dates back to the pre-Partition demand by Muslims to elect their representatives separately and the debate surrounding it continues to this day
• Pakistan currently has a joint electorate system where voters go to the polls to elect national and provincial representatives irrespective of their religious identification. Muslims and non Muslims, however, have separate voter registration lists. Ahmedis are not included in the electoral rolls for Muslims.
• Pakistan’s legislatures have reserved seats for non Muslims that are assigned through proportional representation on the basis of the number of seats won by each political party
• The members elected on reserved seats for minorities are often dependent on support from their respective clergy systems and often do not represent the various sects of their religious community. This has led to legislative issues, for example, divorce laws for Hindus and Christians follow the doctrines of their respective religious elites
• Lahore’s 13 National Assembly constituencies have around 275,000 Christian voters, but most of the Christian neighbourhoods face a lack of basic facilities including clean drinking water and waste disposal, and rising unemployment
• The number of non Muslim voters in at least 50 National Assembly constituencies was greater than the difference of votes between winners and losers in these constituencies in the 2002 and 2008 elections. Despite this almost veto-like power, non Muslim voters are unable to create a difference in the results perhaps due to lack of voter mobilization.
• Mahesh Kumar Malani is the only non Muslim candidate who won a seat in the general elections of 2013. “He got elected for the Sindh Assembly from a Tharparkar district constituency that has 68,000 non-Muslim voters — slightly more than half of the 133,254 total registered votes there.”
• In August 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that proportional representation for non-Muslims was against three principles laid down in the Objectives Resolution
The story does well in quoting the many stakeholders of the electoral representation of non Muslims and is able to create a detailed picture of the way the debate around separate electorate has shifted over time. Also, it has one of the coolest source names in the history of Pakistani journalism: Napoleon Qayyum.
If you are able to get your hands on the print copy of the February issues, you should also check out the cover story “A Nation’s Shame” and the critique article “Law and Disorder: A Brief History of Anti-Blasphemy Laws” which both have strong data components and carry data visualisations. These articles are not available online.
Follow our Data Story of the Day tag to read more local data-driven investigative stories.