The Supreme Court has rejected a petition filed against the Lahore High Court (LHC) judgement which had also dismissed the plea seeking an increase in minority seats in parliament.
A two-judge Supreme Court bench consisting of Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Ayesha A Malik rejected the petition on the grounds that a constitutional amendment was required to suitably increase the number of minority representation on the reserved seats but the apex court cannot issue directions to the parliament in this regard.
“The court was not authorised to issue an order to the parliament to amend the constitution. How could the court decide for enhancing the minorities seats in the parliament?” Justice Ijazul Ahsan questioned.
Advocate Francis Gabriel, while arguing before the court, contended that the parliament should be asked to consider increasing the number of seats for the minorities in the National Assembly as well as the four provincial assemblies in view of the huge increase of population in the country.
Christian human rights activists have been demanding an increase seats for religious minorities from 10 to 14 in the 342-seat national assembly. The national parliament currently has four Christian and six Hindu members.
In 1985, when 10 seats were allotted to religious minorities, the national parliament had only 210 seats, which meant religious minorities had some 5 percent of the seats.
The demographics of Pakistan have changed much in the past four decades and in 2008 parliament increased its seats to 342. If a proportional 5 percent increase was considered, religious minorities should have been given 17 seats. But the minority seats were not increased.
Minority voters now account for 3.63 million or 3.5 percent of the 118 million voters in Pakistan, according to official records.
In the second episode of Kross Konnection series on electoral reforms for Pakistan’s religious minorities, Peter Jacob, the Executive Director of Center for Social Justice, urged analyzing the basis of this age old demand.
“It was wrong to propose the increase in seats as per minority population. Religious minorities have decreased by one third in the country. The original formula for reserving minority seats was more than just population to improve their representation,” he said.
Augustine Jacob, a Peshawar-based human rights activist, termed the rejection of the petition an insult to Christian community.
“It was a constitutional mistake. Our so called leaders go to courts, parliaments and even on roads without preparation. Instead they should lobby with their respective political parties. A joint effort is needed to pursue the demand,” he told Kross Konnection.