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Ahmadis set to boycott general elections again
* Say they are being discriminated against with separate lists
LAHORE: The Ahmadiyya community in Pakistan is once again leaning towards boycotting the upcoming general elections due to the issuance of a separate list of Ahmadi voters by the election commission, Daily Times learnt from members of the community.
The election commission displayed voters’ lists across the country in mid June and invited registered voters to check that their names and voting numbers had been duly registered. Members of the Ahmadiyya community noticed that their names had been posted in a separate list in spite of the government claims of forming a joint electorate. Ahmadiyya community said this act reflected discrimination based on religious views and branded it also an attempt to strengthen Islamic extremists.
Election Commission Secretary Kunwar Dilshad Ahmed, on the other hand, told Daily Times he was “unaware” of the matter. “The issue is not in my knowledge but I will check the lists,” he said.
Asked whether this could be a technical mistake, he said these lists were initial drafts for display, and that a separate list for the community could help its members in checking the names and information of their members.
Community representatives have repeatedly asserted that the community should not be treated in a discriminatory manner in the voters lists, which include all other non-Muslin communities, Ahmadiyya community insiders said. An Ahmadiyya report notes that the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom annual report says that Pakistan abolished the system of separate electorate in 2002. “It seems there is a general impression that Pakistan has shifted from a separate electorate to a joint electorate system, although actually the shift was only from one level of separate electorate to another,” the Ahmadiyya report says.
A move was made early in the year 2002 to introduce a joint electorate system in the country. However, as per President General Pervez Musharraf’s order No 15 published in the Gazette of Pakistan (Extraordinary) issued at Islamabad on June 17, 2002, titled ‘Conduct of General Elections (Second Amendment) Order 2002’, a separate “supplementary list of voters” was created for Ahmadis. That was the end of the short-lived reintroduction of the joint electorate. The community believes that the current situation with the electoral rolls is only a variation of content, not a wholesale change in principle or concept. Prior to 2002, there were separate electoral rolls: one jointly for Sunnis, Shias, Wahabis, etc., and separate ones for other denominations. Now there is one for Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Sikhs etc., and one for Ahmadis, specifying them as non-Muslim. This obviates claims that a joint electorate system is in effect.
When the presidential referendum was held in 2000, the Ahmadis participated because there was only one voters list, but soon after that the election commission prepared another separate list for Ahmadis, highlighting them as non-Muslim. Ahmadis in Pakistan have virtually been sidelined from the general elections since 1975-76. They have consistently boycotted general elections because electoral rolls have not been prepared on the basis of a joint electorate. The joint electorate rolls were violated in 2002 and this remains unchanged in the current scenario.