Pakistan’s election laws have created a separate electoral register for Ahmadis.
In order to vote Ahmadis are required to either deny their belief in the founder of their community as a Muslim reformer, or deny their Islamic beliefs and self-identify as a non-Muslim minority in Pakistan.
This has acted as an effective block on Ahmadis voting and has led to their disenfranchisement from the democratic process in Pakistan for nearly 40 years – including the forthcoming 2018 elections.
The discrimination flows from the 1974 amendment to the Pakistan Constitution that declares Ahmadis as non-Muslims. Then, as part of President Zia-ul-Haq’s Islamisation process, a separate electorate and electoral roll was created for all non-Muslims (following the above constitutional definition of non-Muslims) under ‘President’s Order No. 14 of 1985’, Schedule 11(3). Under this system, blocks of non-Muslims were made to vote for only 5% of the seats in the National Assembly allocated to their specific block and were barred from voting in the general elections for their districts, which were confined to Muslim candidates and the Muslim electorate.
This system was partly abolished in 2002, when President Musharraf introduced a ‘joint electorate’, which lifted the requirement to declare religion when choosing to vote (The Conduct of General Elections Order (2002)) and allowed the electorate to vote for any candidate. However, this was quickly followed by Executive Order Number 15 of 2002, which reinstated the subordinate position of Ahmadi Muslims and required that Ahmadis to be placed on a separate electoral register (as non-Muslims).
In 2007, the Election Commission ordered via its letter No. F.1(6)/2001-Cord dated 17 January, 2007 that separate supplementary lists for Ahmadis be prepared and published. This was also the case in 2011 in advance of the 2013 elections.
Therefore, despite the use of a joint electoral register for all other communities (whether Muslim, Sikh, Hindu or Christian) Ahmadi Muslims continue to be singled out and marginalised on the basis of their beliefs. The use of a separate (non-Muslim) electoral register for Ahmadis was again used in Pakistan’s local elections in 2015 and remains in place to this day.
Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan may therefore vote only after either signing a declaration that they do not belong to the Ahmadi Community, or acquiescing to their status as ‘non-Muslims’.
The separate electoral list comprising solely of Ahmadis is published and publicly available (with names and addresses of registered voters). This makes it very easy for extremists to target, harass, intimidate and kill Ahmadis. This is of great concern for those Ahmadis who live in more remote areas where they are more vulnerable as they may live in fewer numbers.
Corroboration of marginalization by EU Observer Missions
The issue of Ahmadi voting rights has been highlighted in the last two EU Electoral Observer Missions to Pakistan. Most recently in 2013, the EU Electoral Observer Mission found that:
“In contradiction of article two of the ICCPR, the Ahmadi community continues to be discriminated against as, unlike other minority groups, Ahmadis are registered on a separate ER [Electoral Register]. While the Constitution foresees Pakistani citizenship and an age of 18 as the requirements for the right to vote, and the Conduct of General Elections Order 2002 establishes a unified ER, subsequent amendments… discriminate against Ahmadis.”
The Observer mission concluded as one of its key recommendations:
“The separate list for Ahmadi voters be abolished, so that all voters are on one unified electoral roll, according to requirements for age and Pakistani citizenship.”