Free and Fair Elections – Except for Ahmadis

IPSnewsnet: Zofeen Ibrahim: KARACHI , May 6 2013 (IPS) – Twenty-five-year-old Syed Hasan, a doctor practicing in a private hospital in Lahore, plans to spend most of May 11, Pakistan’s long-awaited Election Day, in bed.

Members of the minority Ahmadi community in Pakistan say they have been disenfranchised by the country’s election laws. Credit: Adil Siddiqi/IPS

A member of the Ahmadiyya faith, Hasan has promised to boycott the impending elections on the grounds that his community of roughly four million has been disenfranchised.

Ever since the constitution branded them non-Muslims, Ahmadis — who believe that the 19thcentury cleric Mirza Ghulam Ahmad is the messiah promised by God – have been amongst the most persistently persecuted minorities in Pakistan.

This discrimination is felt deeply at the ballot box, where Ahmadis are compelled to register their votes under a separate category from other residents and thus accept the status of non-Muslim, in violation of their religious identity, Amjad M. Khan, president of the U.S.-based Ahmadiyya Muslim Lawyers Association, told IPS in an email.

According to Hasan, “If we want to vote as Pakistani Muslims, which we consider ourselves to be, we have to denounce the Ahmadi community and our spiritual leader, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, as a false prophet,” a move he is not prepared to make.

He told IPS his faith is more important to him than casting a vote.

Though the choice is a clear one for many Ahmadis, civil society leaders and even conscientious political parties worry about what the boycott means for democracy in this country of 170 million, where hopes for a “free and fair election” have been running high ahead of the May 11 polls.

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