Friday, August 24, 2007

Letter to the Chief Justice of Pakistan

From Lord Avebury
Parliamentary Human Rights Group

August 18, 2007

Dear Chief Justice,

You have taken note of a number of issues connected with the forthcoming elections suo moto, including registration by ID cards and the registration of women in tribal areas, and I therefore respectfully suggest that you should examine the failure to implement the official claim to the existence of a Joint Electorate.

As you are aware the Chief Executive’s Order No. 15 of 2002, published in The Gazette of Pakistan (Extraordinary), Islamabad, Monday, June 17, 2002, provides that members of the Ahmadiyya Community are “deleted from the joint electoral rolls and added to a supplementary list of voters in the same electoral area as non-Muslims”.

For this election, and notwithstanding that this Order remained in force, the Election Commission had declared their intention to have a common voters’ list, as a corollary of the decision to restore the joint electorate. That decision has now been reversed; Ahmadi voters have been removed from the common list, and transferred to a list designated for non-Muslims. People belonging to other faiths such as the Christians remain on the common list.

The Ahmadiyya Community says that because of this discrimination, it will not take part in the elections, and as I am sure you are aware, the complaint also figured in a recent 'national consultation' organized by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in Lahore. The participants regretted the fact that the Ahmadiyya community had to opt out of the electoral process because of their being put on a separate list when there was a single electoral list for Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Parsis, etc. This was seen as a negation of the joint electorate system.

The Ahmadis had also abstained from participation in previous elections held on a separate electorate basis because that would have meant that they were a non-Muslim minority. That is the position under the domestic law, but it is a contravention of their right under Articles 18 and 19 ICCPR, and under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The difference in the treatment of particular faiths in the electoral law is almost certain to be criticised by the UN Rapporteur on Religious Freedom, who has commented adversely on separate electoral lists in the past. I would be most grateful, therefore, if you would review the legality of a separate electoral list aimed at one particular faith community, and if you so decide, declare the separate list unlawful.

Yours sincerely,

Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry
Chief Justice of Pakistan
The Supreme Court
Constitution Avenue, Islamabad

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