Dr. Mahesh Kumar Malani, who emerged as the only successful non-Muslim candidate in last week’s general election in Pakistan, said on Sunday that 75% of the people who voted for him in National Assembly’s NA-215 Tharparkar constituency were Muslims. Dr. Malani, who contested the election on the ticket of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) that has ruled the Sindh province since 2008, secured 129,404 votes in a tough race against former chief minister, Dr. Ghulam Arbab Rahim, who garnered 111,954 votes. This is the second time Malani has achieved the feat. In 2018, he defeated Arbab Zakaullah of the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) to become the first non-Muslim to be elected directly on a National Assembly seat in Pakistan. Prior to that, he had won the general election for a Sindh provincial assembly seat from Tharparkar in 2013. Malani says his Tharparkar desert district demonstrates exemplary harmony between Hindus and Muslims. “The voters here don’t see to which religion one belongs. They see as who is contesting and what can he do. I can claim that 75% of Muslim voters have voted for me,” he told Arab News over the phone from Tharparkar. “We live in harmony here and respect each other. There is no distinction on the basis of class, creed or faith.” Supporters congratulate Dr. Mahesh Kumar Malani, who emerged as the only successful non-Muslim candidate in the Feb. 8 general election, in Mithi, Pakistan, on February 11, 2024. (Lajpat Rai Khatri/Facebook) According to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, Hindus constitute the largest non-Muslim minority in Pakistan at 2.14% of more than 241 million population, followed by Christians at 1.27% and people of other faiths at 0.011%. Tharparkar has a total population of 1,778,407, of which 48% are Hindus and 52% Muslims, according to Kapil Dev, a local activist. The Election Commission of Pakistan says the district has 719,232 registered voters, of which 390,696 are men and 328,536 are women. “When we celebrate Eid, we celebrate it together, when we celebrate Holi and Diwali, we celebrate them together,” Dr. Malani said. “There is no discrimination on the basis of religion.” He said the candidate running against him was a former chief minister and shared the faith of the majority of voters, but the people in Tharparkar do not see the faith of a candidate and vote on the basis of their performance. “My party has done remarkable work, we have spread a network of roads, made hospitals and schools,” Dr. Malani said. “In NICVD (National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases) Mithi (Tharparkar district headquarters), heart patients from other districts also come for free treatment.” Additionally, he said, around 150,000 women were getting financial support under the Benazir Income Support Program (BISP) in Tharparkar. “This is the performance which elects you. There is no distinction here between Muslims and Hindus,” Dr. Malani said. Sunil Kumar, a 40-year-old Hindu resident of Mithi who works in the private sector, said Dr. Malani’s victory as the only minority candidate on a general seat painted a “positive picture” of Pakistan. “It gives a message out to the world that we Hindus are treated equally in Pakistan,” he told Arab News. “This is indeed a matter of great pride for Pakistani Hindus to have their representative in the National Assembly.” He urged political parties to mainstream religious minorities and give them more space through meaningful representation. “Political parties need to develop minority-friendly politics within their party structures,” Kumar added. But for Dr. Malani, a candidate’s ability to perform and loyalty to their party are the only criteria for success in elections. “In Pakistan People’s Party, those who serve the party, serve the people, and have the ability to win a seat,” he said.