Citizens of Pakistan that do not practice the religion Islam, commonly known as ``religious minorities" are also participating in the local bodies elections. However individu-land field contacts have revealed that there is considerable confusion regarding the method of participation in the local bodies' elections by the religious minorities. Individu-land's research has shown that:
> There are 13 seats for each Union Council. These include 6 general (including two women), four for workers and peasants and one for the religious minorities besides the Nazim and Naib Nazim.
> Separate electoral rolls for religious minorities and Muslims are being used just as they were used during the 2000-1 local bodies' elections. Political observers would recall that the general elections of 2002 were conducted using joint electoral rolls. However, the religious parties opposed this as according to them `` Non �Muslims would also manage to get registered in the Muslim rolls " Thus, the ECP decided to separate the rolls. However, as a result of this a total of 8.3 million voters are at risk of being disenfranchised. Individu-land research shows that the separate rolls had a total of 63.68 million voters while the joint electoral rolls used in 2002 general elections had a total of 72 million voters. In a frantic attempt to address this problem candidates and voters are frantically getting themselves registered in the separate rolls.
> The religious minorities can contest for the UC seat through separate electoral rolls and they have one seat as pointed out earlier. However, what is not widely known is that religious minorities can also contest for the seat of Nazim and Naib Nazim through joint electorate. In other words, the seat of the UC is through separate electorate and the seat of the Nazim and Naib Nazim is through joint electorate which is a bit confusing for most including the religious minorities themselves and the political observers.
It is important that this fact is publicized by local civil society groups, media and also by the Election Commission itself. The ECP took out half page advertisements in the leading newspapers in Urdu publicizing the code of conduct. Individu-land would like to request the ECP to publicize this fact too. Ideally through the newspapers but at least through it's website www.ecp.gov.pk. Nowhere on it's website is this fact clear. The only time the word minorities is mentioned is in the schedule under Indirect Elections which states:
All districts./city districts of the Province of Punjab, Sindh, NWFP and Balochistan:
Category of Elections:(i) a Zila Nazim for a district /city district (ii)a Tehisl/Taluka Nazim for each Tehsil/Taluka or Town as the case may be and (iii) members of the Zila Council or Town Council against the seats reserved for women, peasants and minority communities. "
Therefore it is imperative that this be publicized and the confusion cleared. The few religious minorities that do know about this clause are contesting, Tharprakar being a case in point where almost 25% are contesting for the seats of the Naib Nazim.
> A positive step that the ECP has taken and which should be appreciated is that on July 25th 2005 through a notification the ECP directed that if in any UC area, religious minorities form more than 10% of the population, the Muslim seats will be curtailed and the religious minorities seats would be increased. The copy of the notification is available with indivdiu-land if anyone wants a copy.
It is hoped that the issues raised by individu-land regarding the confusion of religious minorities' participation in the elections will be taken notice of.