Singled out

WHEN EVER elections take place, the Ahmadi community is reminded of their `otherness` through the existence of a separate voters` list for the group. Because of this unfortunate reality, the community has for decades boycotted elections and will also stay away from next week`s exercise. It is sad that the state has created such conditions that a large number of its minority citizens will not be able to exercise their right to franchise.

As a spokesman for the community told this paper, such behaviour `contravenes both the Constitution and the joint electorate system`.

The issue is, of course, part of the larger pattern of discrimination the community faces in both the public and private spheres.

Separate electorates were created during Gen Zia`s dictatorship. It was another military man Gen Musharraf who restored the joint electorate during his time in power, yet the late strongman was pressured to keep Ahmadis separate, which is the way things stand today. Calls by the community to change the election laws have failed to get a satisfactory response. The ECP, as well as whichever government is in power, needs to be asked why the community is identified separately, when all other non-Muslim groups are part of the general voters` list. It raises serious questions about an entire community`s disenfranchisement. What is equally troubling is that a separate voters` list containing sensitive personal information exposes the group to grave danger, as extremists can easily identify members of the community from this document. Over the past many decades, the group`s places of worship have been attacked, while its members have been murdered. There exist outfits in this country that dedicate all their time and energies to persecuting this particular community. In such a perilous environment, if the state cannot guarantee the community`s right to participate in the polls, the least it can do is to not expose them to further danger through the separate voters`list.

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