Pak govt to increase legislative seats for non-Muslims



Islamabad: The government will move a constitutional amendment to increase seats for non-Muslims in Pakistan's national and provincial assemblies, Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf said on Tuesday.

The government, in consultation with its allies in the ruling coalition, will move the constitutional amendment, Ashraf said during a meeting with a delegation of leaders of the Awami National Party.

The move will send a "very strong and positive message to the world about the government's efforts to give a voice to non-Muslim Pakistanis," he said.

Earlier in the day, a meeting of the parliamentary committee of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party chaired by Ashraf approved a four per cent increase in seats for non-Muslims in the national and provincial assemblies.

A bill in this regard is expected to be introduced in the ongoing session of parliament.

A total of 10 seats are currently reserved for non-Muslims in the 342-member National Assembly or lower house of parliament, while another 23 seats are reserved for minorities in the four provincial assemblies.

The meeting of the parliamentary committee also discussed local government elections and the caretaker set-up to be formed ahead of the next general election, which is scheduled for early next year.

Law Minister Farooq Naek briefed the meeting on legal matters related to these issues, officials said.

The PPP leaders decided to convene a meeting of the parliamentary party of all members of the ruling coalition tomorrow for further discussions.

Addressing the meeting of the PPP’s parliamentary party, Ashraf said parliament is completing its constitutional term and this is a "singular achievement in the face of multifarious challenges to democracy".

This is happening even though the PPP did not have a simple majority, he said.

He said "democracy and only democracy can solve the problems" faced by Pakistan.

The completion of the constitutional term by the current government is essential for the "continuity and strengthening of democracy", he added.

Ashraf said the credit for the continuity of the current democratic dispensation should go to President Asif Ali Zardari, who is also the head of the PPP.

PTI