KARACHI: Pakistani minorities are celebrating Minority Day today (Thursday) on August 11, without having right to vote to elect their own parliamentarians. This national day, known as Minorities Day Pakistan got an official reorganization in 2009 by the efforts of Hindus and Christians, the two biggest religious minorities of the country and also by the former minister of minorities’ affairs Shehbaz Bhatti who was killed on March 2 2011, made lot of struggle to declare the day as national day. According to constitution of Pakistan the religious minorities can contest elections on general seats and they can also vote to Muslim candidates on general seats, but they cannot elect minority parliamentarians, which are supposed to represent them in the assemblies. The religious minorities or Non Muslim Pakistanis comprises on Hindus, Christians, Ahmedis, Sikhs, Parsis, Buddhists and even Jews, can contest elections on general seats like Muslim candidates, but for their own seats, the seats for religious minorities, there is no election and they are being selected by political parties. “This is clear violation of rights of religious minorities and whatever the problems the minorities are facing today is all because they don’t have right to vote to elect their own representatives,” said Raj Kumar, chairman Secular Sindh Forum (SSF). Talking to Daily Times, Kumar said that religious minorities must be given right to vote and also number of the seats of minorities must be increased as they have same number of the seats which were given to them in 1988. In early 1980s, during former dictator Zia Ul Haq’s military regime, minorities could vote only to elect their own representatives, not to any Muslim candidates. Latter, Musharraf government minorities were given right to vote to Muslim candidates, but for their own seat on which members of religious minorities would represent them in assemblies, were made reserved seats-just like reserved seats for women. And the right to select who will represent minorities in the assembly was given to the political parties, not the minority voters. There are also rumors, that political parties’ leadership gets huge money on the name of party funds from the minority representatives to nominate them on reserved seats for minorities. Some of the leaders of minorities claim since the political parties receive huge money, they will never, give minorities’ right to vote and will keep these reserve seats. In the National Assembly of Pakistan, there are total 342 seats, out of which on 272 seats are linked with direct votes, on the rest 70 seats, 60 seats are reserved for women and 10 for minorities. Under that formula, the 272 are divided by the numbers of the seats reserved for minorities, which means total seats 272 will be divided by the total 10 reserved seats for minorities. Thus, any party winning 27.2 general seats will get one minority seat. These seats are allocated to the parties in accordance with their priority list submitted to election commission of Pakistan. Hence, minorities will vote for general seats, but their own representatives will not contest the election. On winning of certain seats by political parties, their nominated minorities’ repetitive will get into assemblies, just like reserved seats for women. On contact, Surendar Valasai, advisor to PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari told Daily Times that PPP will soon work on this issue. Quoting Bilwal Bhutto, Valasai said that PPP chairman has directed the PPP’s Parliamentary Party in National Assembly to pursue the pending Bill to increase the seats for Non-Muslims in the National and Provincial Assemblies and take up the issue with the other Parliamentary groups to speed up the legislation. “This is a serious issue and PPP will work on it resolve it, so that number of seats for minorities could be increased and also minorities communities could elect their own representatives,” said Valasai.