Why can’t a non-Muslim dream of becoming the prime minister or president of Pakistan?


Protesters hold up placards at a rally in Karachi. PHOTO/REUTERS

When Sajid Javid announced that he would join the race for 10 Downing Street earlier this year, the news was met with a joyous reception in Pakistan. Just the thought that a man who was raised in a Muslim household was even in contention to become the next prime minister of Britain was seen as a matter of great pride; after all, we feel it is imperative that all other nations ensure an equal access to opportunities for all religious minorities and do not discriminate on the basis of religion.

However, how many in Pakistan would be celebrating if an individual from a religious minority was in the running to become the prime minister or president of Pakistan? In truth, we may never know the answer to that question since the Constitution of Pakistan does not allow a non-Muslim to occupy either of these offices. According to Article 41 (2) of the Constitution,

“A person shall not be qualified for election as president unless he is a Muslim of not less than 45 years of age and is qualified to be elected as a member of the National Assembly.”

Similarly, Article 91 (3) stipulates,

“After the election of the speaker and the deputy speaker, the National Assembly shall, to the exclusion of any other business, proceed to elect without debate one of its Muslim members to be the prime minister.”

Now, as a Hindu who was born and raised in Pakistan, I never felt the need to question the heights to which I could rise. I had been weaned on the belief that all citizens in Pakistan are equal, and that the state will never endorse discrimination along religious lines. Whenever there are incidents of religious prejudice in Pakistan, of which there are many, I reassure myself with the belief that these instances in no shape or form reflect the thinking which underpins our sate machinery. But this approach now seems increasingly paradoxical to me.

The Express Tribune for more

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