With the elections less than 24 hours away a lot has spurred and several aspects of the general elections 2018 have been brought into question. Where cities like Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad, Peshawar, and many others are sinking in posters of various political parties, there are some cities that seem to be living in a parallel universe.
A small town in Pakistan, Rabwah, is existing in the deafening silence of the elections.
It is anticipated that more than 90% of the town’s population will not be voting on July 25th. The Ahmadi population has opted out of participating in the general elections 2018 as a counter to the law that targets their minority.
Their decision is to abstain from their basic civil rights after being categorized as “Non-Muslims” since this violates their right to their identity as they wish but as Pakistani’s as well.
It was also decided that no commission has the authority to alter this law. Even in the previous elections the political parties that were seen supporting the minority and defending them in parliament, faced protests by Islamist parties.
As a result, the law does not allow them to have access to worship areas designated for Muslims. They are further limited in their movement in regards to their use of Literature and Islamic gatherings. The last prominent Ahmadi to cast a vote in Pakistan was in 1977. Zia’s regime declared the Ahmadi’s as non-Muslims, permanently conceding them as a prominent minority in the country.
However, the Ahmadi’s continued to cast their vote with the belief that the act defined them as Pakistanis and had nothing to do with their religious beliefs.
How Does this Impact the General Elections of 2018?
It is believed that this new law declares that 500,000 people who were originally meant to participate, will no longer be casting their votes. Their votes can identify 20 closely contested seats in Punjab.
The law goes against the first choice of the founder of Pakistan; Mohammad Ali Jinnah. Jinnah chose an Ahmadi as the first representative of Pakistan. Therefore, this law defies that religion should be a deciding factor in Pakistan’s political future.
The Ahmadi population has done everything in their power to comply with the new laws that declare them non-Muslims. However, introducing a new category in the voter registration form goes against the ideology that the elections are supposed to be political and not religious
Simultaneously, women belonging to areas like Dir have been banned from leaving their homes on July 25th to cast votes.
In the previous elections, no woman voted across 17 polling stations. As a result of this more than 9 million women were left without a ballot. Even the released documents of certain polling stations this year reveal 4 ballot stations, 3 for men and 1 for women. The lack of polling stations catering to women was and continues to be a reason why a considerable vote bank is lost.
Adding to this problem is the cultural norm in conservative societies that disallow women in public spaces with unknown men present. The ECP, however, requires that at least 10% of the vote must be from women for the constituency results to be valid. So the specific requirements of women not being addressed means a tampering of rights as well as a hindrance to free and fair electoral proceedings in remote areas of Pakistan.
This goes to show, that despite these elections anticipated to be historic with Nawaz Sharif’s arrest and Imran Khan’s growing momentum, several aspects are still the same as they were years ago. The elections are discriminatory based on religion and gender. This hints that the General Elections have lost their significance in regards to politics and have gained prominence in reference to their discrimination against women in rural areas and Ahmadi’s across Pakistan.