Pakistan: Christians Lead Boom in Minority Voter Registration

Pakistani Christians attend the Easter Sunday service at the Sacred Heart Cathedral Church in Lahore on April 16, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / ARIF ALI (Photo credit should read ARIF ALI/AFP/Getty Images)
ARIF ALI/AFP/Getty Images

The number of voters from religious minority groups in Pakistan has grown over 30 percent to 3.63 million over the last five years, primarily fueled by Christian involvement in politics, the newspaper Dawn reported on Monday.

Christians are the fastest growing non-Muslim group of voters, Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper acknowledges, adding that followers of Christ in Pakistan make up the second largest minority group at 1.64 million, after Hindus (1.77 million).

Dawn reports:

The number of voters belonging to religious minorities in the country has climbed to 3.63 million from 2.77m registered in electoral rolls for the 2013 general elections — registering an increase of 0.860m or 30 per cent in five years.

According to the latest official document available with Dawn, Hindu voters continue to maintain their majority among the minorities, but they no more constitute over half of [the] total non-Muslim voters as was the case in 2013.

Ahmadis, accused of being “apostates” by some of their fellow Muslims, make up the third largest minority group at 167,505.

The majority of Christians (more than 60 percent) reportedly reside in the province of  Punjab, Pakistan’s second-largest province.

“Their number has grown at a relatively high pace as compared to Hindu voters [26 percent growth] as it was 1.23m before 2013 general polls,” Dawn notes, referring to Christianity adherents.

The latest World Watch List of the top worst countries for Christian persecution compiled by Open Doors identifies Pakistan as number five, noting:

Much of the Christian persecution in Pakistan comes from radical Islamic groups that flourish under the favor of political parties, the army and the government. These radical Islamic groups run thousands of Islamic education centers where youth are taught and encouraged to persecute religious minorities like Christians.

However, the main sources of danger for Christians often come from their own families, since conversion from Islam is seen as cause for shame.

Pakistan is home to a controversial anti-blasphemy law often used as a legal weapon to target Christians and other religious minorities.

Under the statute, anyone, including children, found guilty of insulting Allah, Islam, or religious leaders, can face life in prison or death.

Although Pakistan has yet to execute anyone accused of blasphemy, Islamic radical extremists often take the law into their own hands, punishing and even killing the accused.

This month, Pope Francis chose 14 men to become cardinals, including Pakistan’s Archbishop of Karachi Joseph Coutts.

“Pakistan’s Christians and other religious minorities complain of legal and social discrimination in their country,” Deutsche Welle (DW) reports. In the past few years, many Christians and Hindus have been brutally murdered over unproven blasphemy allegations.

According to Dawn, the number of current minority voters includes Hindu (1.77 million), Christians (1.64 million), Ahmadi Muslims (167,505), Bahai (31,543 ), Sikh (8,852), Parsi (3,650), Buddhist (1,884).

Dawn fails to mention the current number of Jewish voters, noting only that it stood at 809 in 2013.

The U.S. State Department reported that in 2010 “there were no known Jewish communities in” Pakistan.

Some analysts argue that many followers of Christ persevere under persecution as shown by the dramatic increase in the number of worshippers from the religious minority group in atheist China, Pakistan’s ally.