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Minority Hindus feel left out of poll process in Pakistan

Source: PTI   -  Edited By: Hemant Waje
February 03, 2024 14:40 IST
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Ahead of the February 8 general elections in Pakistan, members of the minority Hindu community feel they are mostly left out of the poll process despite having a notable presence, especially in the southern Sindh province.

IMAGE: Stickers badges, to be used for campaigns of political parties, on display for sale at a shop ahead of general elections in Karachi, Pakistan. Photograph: Akhtar Soomro/Reuters

The census showed that Hindus account for just 2.14 per cent of the total population in Muslim-majority Pakistan and in Sindh itself their large concentration means they account for nearly nine per cent.

Under Pakistan's Constitution, 10 seats are reserved for members of minority communities in the National Assembly and 24 seats in the provinces.

Leaders and members of the Hindu community rue the fact that they are not given proper representation and many are not even registered as voters.

Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, the Patron-in-Chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council, noted that the Hindu community, especially those belonging to the lower economic sector or those living in remote villages in Sindh feel left out of the election process.

“In the national census carried out before the elections, the Hindus were not counted fully and we don't agree with the population tally finalised by the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) and with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) where you have to register as a voter,” he said.


According to the law, a citizen must be registered with the state and then must register with the ECP as a voter before they can exercise their right to franchise.

However, members of the lower caste Hindus, the largest minority community living in Sindh, claim that compared to their population, few people are registered as voters due to issues in their identification documents.

“The count of the Hindu population is not correct and because many live in remote areas and are not educated their identification documents carry discrepancies which means they are not registered as voters,” said Shiva Kaachi, a local Hindu community leader from Mirpurkhas.

When the last general elections were held in 2018 approximately 105.9 million voters had exercised their right to vote and some 3.626 million voters were from minority communities.

Kaachi said in reality Hindus make up the largest minority community in Pakistan, especially in Sindh, numbering around 4.77 million but officially only 1.777 million are registered as voters.

The Christian community is second with 1.639 million voters. Ahmadis had 165,369 votes, while the Sikhs had 8,833 voters.

From 2.77 million in 2013 to 3.626 million in 2018, minority voters in Pakistan have increased by more than a million to 4.43 million in 2023 but Hindus from lower castes are still not given voting rights, another community leader, Mukesh Meghwar said.

“This means their impact and representation in the election process is not as it should be,” he added.

He did admit that because of the class and caste differences in the Hindu community, those at the lower rung feel left out.

Kaachi agrees and points out that in different areas of Sindh many times the authorities differentiate between Hindus and Dalits even when using the official box of religion in government documents.

“Because of this, Dalits and other lower caste people feel segregated from the Hindu community - a religious minority to which they ascribe,” he said.

He said that Hindus in Sindh despite speaking several languages including Sindhi, Saraiki, Dhatki, Gera, Gwariya, Gargula, Jandwara, Kobutra, Koli, Luwarki, Marwari, Sansi, Wagharia and Gujarati are still not getting proper representation either as voters or to contest elections.

Shahnaz Sheikh, a journalist and social worker in Sindh's Hyderabad city, says that Hindus who are rich businessmen, traders, landlords or professionally qualified are mainly picked by political parties and given tickets for elections.

“The problem is they don't truly represent public voices as they live in urban areas and have little connection with the grassroots Hindu community so the challenges of healthcare, unemployment, proper representation, and education remain for minorities,” she said.

Tharparkar's Krishna Kumari Kohli became the first female senator from the Hindu community of Sindh in 2018 and she feels seats in Parliament should be increased for minorities based on population which is why all minorities must be registered properly.

Minorities also make their way into legislative assemblies through reserved seats.

Krishna noted there are just four seats for minorities in the Senate - one for each province.

“They should be increased to at least eight in accordance with population increase. If the provincial assembly in Sindh has nine reserved seats, then there is a dire need to increase them to at least 15.”

“When numbers increase in Parliament our voices against forced conversion, kidnapping for ransom, forced marriages, lack of educational and employment opportunities, and health issues can be forcefully addressed," Krishna said.

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Source: PTI  -  Edited By: Hemant Waje© Copyright 2024 PTI. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of PTI content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent.
India Votes 2024

India Votes 2024