Pakistan elections 2024: why not a general seat for minorities?

why not a general seat for minorities?

By Imran Athar Mangi

KARACHI: The main factor contributing to the electoral challenges faced by women from minority communities is the lack of encouragement from political parties. These parties, driven by their own ideas, fears, and reservations, openly hesitate to allocate party tickets to any minority candidate, whether male or female.

Despite their active involvement in party activities, women from minority communities still encounter difficulties. Mangala Sharma, a Pakistani politician serving in the Sindh Provincial Assembly since August 2018, is a testament to resilience. Elected as a member of the Sindh Provincial Assembly on a seat of the MQM reserved for women in the 2018 general elections, Sharma founded the Pak Hindu Welfare Association, focusing on the labor and social rights of minorities.

Having participated in local body elections in 2000, Sharma emphasizes the importance of a grassroots approach. She suggests that in local body elections, quotas for minorities or women should be reserved for chairman or vice-chairman positions. This approach would enable individuals to understand politics and address community issues.

Furthermore, Mangala Sharma proposes a strategic shift. If a political party elects a candidate to a specific seat in one election, they should field them in a general seat in the next election. The reserved seat could then be given to a new candidate, ensuring a continuous and effective electoral process.

She emphasizes that minorities often come to certain seats on the tickets of political parties, with candidates selected being wealthy property owners, successful businessmen, or engaged in stable economic activities. However, these representatives, appointed by political parties, are not directly accountable to the grassroots minority population that did not elect them.

Mangala Sharma advocates for a more inclusive strategy, suggesting that women from minority communities should contest municipal elections to understand public issues. After gaining experience, they can contest elections at the provincial level, eventually becoming eligible to compete for general seats. Despite the election process, the problems of minorities remain inadequately addressed.

Highlighting the lack of recognition and importance given to women by political parties, Mangala Sharma stresses the need for increased acknowledgment and representation. Although the Election Commission mandates a 5 percent presence of women, financial constraints and dependency on families hinder minority women from actively participating in elections.

She applauds instances of change, citing Mahesh Kumar Malani, the first non-Muslim to win a general seat in the National Assembly. Mangala Sharma believes that grassroots representatives and social activists from minority communities can effectively address their longstanding issues.

Notably, Dr. Sveera Prakash, the first woman candidate from a minority in Buner district, has submitted nomination papers for a general seat, demonstrating a positive shift. Mangala Sharma underscores the crucial role of the media in bringing attention to important issues.

While the Sindh Assembly has a significant minority presence, there is room for improvement. Sadia Javed, a leader of the Pakistan People’s Party, acknowledges the challenges women face when contesting general seats. The PPP has issued a ticket to a young Christian lawyer, Roma Mushtaq Mattu, for general seat elections, emphasizing equality regardless of religion, color, or caste.

In conclusion, senior analyst Mazhar Abbas points out that the primary reason for women not being elected to general seats from Karachi is the lack of encouragement from political parties. He urges political parties to address this issue, while also acknowledging the responsibility of women candidates to actively pursue opportunities.

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