KARACHI - A ban by Pakistan's election commission on the use of religion in electoral campaigning is inviting a storm of fury from Islamic parties, considering the move as a blow to efforts to turn country into an Islamic welfare state.
Pakistan came into being in the name of religion (Islam). How can one be barred from seeking votes in the name of religion? Senator Abdul Ghafoor Haidri, Secretary General of Jamiat Ulema Islam (F), one of the two mainstream religious parties in Pakistan, told OnIslam.net.
This is absolutely illogical and unacceptable.
Pakistan's election commission has unveiled a code of conduct that bans political and religious parties from using religion in campaigning in next month's polls.
The commission said candidates found campaigning in the name of religion, sect or gender would be disqualified from the polls.
The so-called code of conduct is a clear violation of the constitution of Pakistan, which itself is Islamic, and explains that no law repugnant to Islam can be enforced in the country, Haidri said.
The JUI and other religious parties have sent letters to the election commission, calling for withdrawing the ban.
We too are against seeking votes on sectarian, linguistic and communal grounds, but seeking votes in the name of religion is our democratic right in line with the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Haidri said.
Maulana Sami-ul-Haq, head of six-party religious alliance Muttehida Deeni Mahaz (United Religious Alliance), was also critical.
One can be barred in Islamic Republic of Pakistan from seeking votes in the name of Islam, that's ridiculous, Sami said.
We will not accept any such ban.
Pakistan is an Islamic country, and will remain an Islamic country. These kinds of bans are aimed at turning the country into a secular state, he said.
Pakistan will hold general elections on May 11 after the government of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) completed its first full term.
But rights activists have welcomed the ban for giving equal rights for all Pakistanis.
Pakistan is the country of Muslims, Christians, Hindus, and other religious communities, and they all have equal rights on that, professor Tauseef Ahmed Khan, a human rights activist, told OnIslam.net.
Therefore seeking votes in the name of religion, sect, or community will not only divide the country, but will also turn out to be a disadvantage for minority candidates.
The election commission ban will provide equal opportunities to Christian and Hindu candidates to get elected, he said.
The election commission rejected criticism of the ban, saying the code of conduct is not new.
This is the same code of conduct, which was introduced in January 2012. There is no new or particular code of conduct for forthcoming general elections, an Election Commission spokesman told OnIslam.net.
But political parties remained on their position, issuing manifestoes to turn Pakistan into an Islamic welfare state.
There is no space of injustice, cruelty, and religious bias, Imran Khan, Pakistan's cricketer-turned politician and the most favorite political leader among young Pakistanis, said.
Our mission and motto is to turn Pakistan into an Islamic welfare state and we will continue our struggle.Seeking vote in the name of Islam or using Islamic symbols in election campaign does not mean any discrimination against any other religion.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net