PAKISTAN: The Supreme Court must ensure that Ahmadis should not be disfranchised 

A Golden Opportunity to abolish self-contradictory Franchise System and Restore true Justice and Democracy in Pakistan

The world has strongly and repeatedly drawn the attention of Pakistan to its self-contradictory franchise system which denies the Ahmadi Muslims the fundamental right to vote.( Click here to read our previous statement on the issue)

The Supreme Court of Pakistan has judiciously taken a firm action to open a petition submitted in 2007 by Kanwar Idrees, a Former Minister of the Sindh Government and a member of the Ahmadiyya Community in Pakistan. Kanwar Idrees argued that the law discriminated against Ahmadis in particular, while it allowed other non-Muslim Communities to be registered in the joint electoral rolls.

In the hearing on Thursday 28 February 2013, Idrees maintained that as Pakistani citizens, he and other Ahmadis should be treated equally in accordance with the Constitution of Pakistan.

The Supreme Court three-member bench presided over by the Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry directed the Attorney General and the Election Commission of Pakistan to respond to the five year old petition of Kanwar Idrees and explain the Constitutional status of Former President Pervez Musharraf’s 2002 Order which inserted Articles 7 (b) and (c) in the Constitution and allowed the creation of separate electoral rolls for Ahmadis.

The hearing of the petition was deferred to Monday 11 March when it is hoped that sanity and justice will prevail and justice will triumph.

It is tragic that Pakistan which is now at the threshold of another General Election and takes great pride in claiming to be a democracy has completely ignored and defied the international and fundamental civic rights in ensuring that all its subjects, without any discrimination whatsoever regarding faith, belief or ethnic origin, are allowed to vote.

All the major international organisations including the UN Human Rights Council, the Asian Human Rights Commission and the European Union, together with the Parliamentary Human Rights Groups of UK, Sweden, Holland, Belgium, Germany, France and also the State Department of USA have been repeatedly drawing the attention of Pakistan to its failure to implement and enforce universal franchise in the country. However, the Government and the Election Committee of Pakistan have totally turned a blind eye to this gross defect in their electoral system. They have so far not grasped the significance that under the Constitution of Pakistan every citizen has the right to vote. Moreover, Article 25 of the International Convention of Civil and Political Rights states that every citizen shall have the right and opportunity to vote and be elected. Similarly, Article 19 and 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees the right to vote to every citizen. This is one of the most basic fundamental rights which must be guaranteed to every citizen and without which a State cannot call itself a democracy.

Internationally, a democracy is defined by a government elected by the people. However, in Pakistan there is an exception to this rule in that Ahmadis on account of their faith and belief are excluded from the electoral system. These devious and unacceptable procedures have usurped the fundamental civic rights of Ahmadis and for decades now they cannot stand as candidates for any assembly, national, provincial or even district. Ahmadis have no representation even in the town council of their own town Rabwah where they make up 95 per cent of the population.

This form includes a warning that a violation will be punished with imprisonment.

The irony of the matter is that Article 20 of Pakistan’s Constitution guarantees freedom of religion and Pakistan is also a signatory to the UN Charter of Human Rights, which makes it obligatory upon the government to safeguard the fundamental rights of all without any discrimination whatsoever, based on religion, faith or belief.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan now has a golden opportunity to prove to the world that it stands fearlessly for justice and is committed to upholding the International Conventions especially the ones that ensure the fundamental civic rights and fundamental freedoms of all especially the tragically deprived groups like the Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan.