Thu, 25 Apr 2013 12:53:44 GMT

Kerry urged to help end Ahmadis voting discrimination in Pak

From Lalit K Jha
Washington, Apr 24 (PTI) A bipartisan group of Congressmen have urged the US Secretary of State John Kerry, to help end discrimination of Ahmadi community voters, in Pakistan as the country heads towards a historic election next month.

Led by Republican Congressmen Frank Wolf from Virginia, 33 lawmakers in a letter urged Kerry to impress upon the Pak President Asif Ali Zardari, to immediately repeal ''Executive Order No 15'' and remove any discriminatory restrictions on Ahmadis being able to vote in the upcoming May elections.

The letter sent to Kerry last week was released to the press yesterday.

"I am deeply troubled that Pakistans electoral system discriminates on the basis of religion, rendering the premise of free and fair elections a sham," Wolf said, but added that "this pernicious regime of discrimination is relatively easy to change."
Wolf, co-chairman of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, pointed out that in order to register to vote, each citizen must fill out a form stating his or her religious affiliation, adding "not only are matters of conscience wholly irrelevant to the exercise of this fundamental right of citizenship, but for Pakistans four million Ahmadi Muslims, this requirement blocks their right to vote."
The State Departments own recently released annual human rights report confirmed this reality indicating that, "The government required voters to indicate their religion when registering to vote. To register to vote, the government required Ahmadis to declare themselves as non-Muslims.
Ahmadis consider themselves Muslims, and as a result, the community was unable to vote."
Notably, even the Supreme Court of Pakistan has taken notice of the exclusion of Ahmadi Muslims from the joint electoral rolls, and has ordered authorities to explain how such a system can be consistent with equal right of all citizens, irrespective of religion, to vote, the Congressmen said.
"Secretary (Kerry), if thisthe first time in Pakistans history that a democratically elected government peacefully passes power to another through electionsis truly to be a watershed moment, we cannot stand idly by and allow four million Ahmadi Muslims to remain disenfranchised and outside the electoral process," the Congressmen said in the letter.

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