Citizen’s Observation for Transparent and Accountable Elections in Pakista

Focus Group Discussion with Minority Councilors

Purpose of Event:

The objective of this activity was to know about the Opportunities available to minority communities in the district for participation in electoral processes as voters, the Difficulties these communities face in obtaining CNICs, to what extent respective communities are freely able to participate in pre-polling electoral activities and/or related gatherings, such as rallies, etc, Identification of any individuals or groups whom minority communities may fear harassment, intimidation, or violence.

Proceedings of event:

The activity started with a round of introduction. All of the minority councilors belonged to Christian community. Further proceedings are recorded as under.The participants responded that they use their right to vote according to their will. In last election, they faced the reaction of loser candidates because of the color of their ballot paper disclosed their political affiliation. The participants raised their concern over the election mechanism. They highly curtsied the selection process. They demanded direct election instead of selection. The participants informed majority of their community members are registered voters and most of the adults do have CNIC. They also shared that they did not face any issue in CNIC processing and voter registration. Majority of the participant informed that they did not observe any educational or facilitation drives in their area. They shared that voter registration process is friendly and easy.

The participant shared that they can freely participate in election activities and faced no such barriers which could curtail them from taking part in such activities. They informed that since they are being elected directly so their electoral activities are limited and we did not face any harassment, violence or any restriction from any group/individuals. They informed that overall atmosphere during 2013 election was good except somewhere some of the supporters of candidate tried to influence the voters by shouting slogans in favorer of their candidates. We did not face any procedural issue in casting our vote and no vote was rejected on any ground. The polling staff treated us equally.

The participants expressed that their needs and interests are not adequately represented by the elected office bearers in their district. They shared that we are free to vote according to our own choice. There are no social or political barriers which could bar us in choosing our candidates. In this regards, religious parties are more supportive. The participant responded that they are looking more active role in elation as candidates and they should be allowed to contest elections as an independent candidate.

The participant shared that no one from their community contested the provincial or national assembly election. Most of the political partied don’t issue tickets to non-Muslim background. Members for provincial or national assembly are selected and they don’t have any link with the voter thus they don’t represent our community truly. Furthermore, we do not face any resistance from any group. Minority political groups are divided into different groups according to party affiliation. We have no such alliance for any specific political party because we are not in such position. We are freely supporting the candidates as per our part affiliations. They also raised their concern that current electoral system does not allow them to contest for the right to represent minorities. We are totally dependent on the will of political parties. We need more independent and increased participation at all tiers including local level, District level and also at Provincial and National level.

The participants urged that ECP should urgently address the non-implementation of Election Laws, Rules and regulations. Political Parties cannot be spared of the obligation to contribute for orderly elections. They must educate their workers and voters on the polling procedures, train their polling agents and teach tolerance to their worker. They also urged that a complete overhaul in the approaches and thinking of the political parties and the minority communities is needed.