Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), in its latest conference, stressed the need to include marginalised communities in the voting and electoral process. While the date of the general elections in Pakistan has not been announced yet, HRCP’s conference suggested this time should be utilised to bridge the gap that exists and extensive reforms should be introduced that aim at taking the marginalised communities into the fold of democracy.
In Pakistan, the transgender community, people with disabilities, religious minorities as well as women constitute the broad spectrum of marginalised people. These segments of society are sidelined to the extent that it is even difficult to get data and estimated figures on the total number of members of these communities. The absence of this primary data is a hurdle in registering them as voters and bringing them into the political mainstream. HRCP noted 11.7 million women who are registered as voters.
Though historically marginalised, the voting records pertaining to women have shown improvement over the years. But for the disabled, the transgender, and religious minorities, the gap persists. Their exclusion from state affairs can be remedied by granting them political say, for which the first and foremost step is registering them as voters. But this requires the protection of law. In the case of the transgender community, the issue of ID cards is far from settled, and hence any chances of voter registration are eroded even before the process kick starts.
The fate of religious minorities is equally miserable. Unless the laws that deprive minorities of voting rights are repealed and revised, the problem will persist. For a democracy to deliver to its best potential, all people should be able to cast votes. If such large segments of society are excluded from the process, it puts the legitimacy of the elected government into question.
Safeguarding the fundamental constitutional rights of all citizens can guarantee fairness in elections. While there is heated debate over election dates in the country, political parties and government institutions must also pay attention to those who have been excluded for years. Including them will only make the democratic process more grounded and the subsequent government will be representative of the people as it should be.