Including the Marginalized 

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 Unless the laws that deprive minorities of voting rights are repealed and revised, the problem will persist.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.

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