Ahmadis to boycott Pak polls over religious discrimination

Islamabad, Pakistan - The Ahmadi community in Pakistan has decided to boycott the January elections for the national and provincial assemblies, alleging "religious discrimination" by the country's Election Commission.

The Ahmadi community announced that it will boycott the crucial elections on January 8 due to the alleged "religious discrimination" by Pakistan's Election Commission in issuing a separate list for Ahmadi voters in a joint electorate system, Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya officials said.

They said that no community member would contest the elections or vote on the election day, and those who did would no longer be considered part of the community.

In Pakistan, Parliament has declared Ahmadis to be non-Muslims and have been the target of many attacks led by religious groups. Seminaries and Madrassas in Pakistan have prescribed essential reading materials specifically targeted at refuting Ahmadiyya beliefs.

Salimuddin, a spokesman for the Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya, said that following the display of the separate voter lists, he wrote a letter to the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC), drawing his attention to the "stark violation of the fundamental rights guaranteed in the constitution and Pakistans international human rights commitments".

"This is also contrary to the spirit of justice and equality. Since the inception of Pakistan in 1947 to the time of General Zia-ul-Haq, all national elections were conducted on the basis of the joint electorate system. This was in line with the vision of the founding father of the nation and was enshrined in the 1973 constitution," he were quoted as saying by The Daily Times newspaper today.

In 1985 Dictator Zia introduced a system of separate confessional electorates for five groups (Muslims, Christians, Hindu, Ahmadiya as well as Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsees grouped together).

Salimuddin of the Jamaat-e-Ahmadiyya in his letter reminded the Pakistan's Chief Election Commissioner that President Pervez Musharrafs government took the decision to restore the joint electorate system, which was a step in the right direction.

However, he said, the practical outcome of the change was not as real as it might appear.

"There still happens to be a section of society that is discriminated against on the basis of religion ... Ahmadis votes are registered only if they dissociate themselves from the Prophet (Pbuh), something which is not possible for any Ahmadi to do in light of our religious belief and practical life," he said in the letter.