Pakistan’s elections – 5 things you must know
The country of Pakistan prepares for national and provincial elections on July 25. We request prayer for Pakistani Christians at this time, even as pressure on believers in this nation has been on the rise. Pakistan is at no.5 on the 2018 World Watch List, and is designated as the number one country for being the most violent persecutor of Christians.
Christians in Pakistan are considered low class citizens by the majority of the people, and they have been at the receiving end of discrimination and religious persecution. Threats of church bombings during Easter and Christmas are common. They also endure job restrictions, forced conversions, and death sentences as the result of Pakistan’s anti-blasphemy laws.
To help you pray with Pakistani Christians, we asked our local church network ALIVE how our brothers and sisters are praying. Below, we offer five critical prayers you can pray along with Pakistani believers.
5 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT PAKISTAN’S ELECTIONS
1. Pakistan is a mostly democratic, parliamentary republic controlled for decades by the country’s army, which in recent years is believed by many to be mainstreaming militant groups. The army continues to grow in financial power and influence.
2. In the July 25 elections, 342 seats in the national assembly are up for grabs: 272 are general seats, which are elected by the public and can be contested. However, Muslims have historically almost always won these seats. Not a single Christian candidate is slated to run. The rest of the seats are reserved for women (60 seats) and minorities (10). These positions are nominated by the party and are meant to assure that women and minorities like Christians and Hindus have proportional representation in parliament. Of the 10 available minority seats, Christians may get two or three.
3. Nawaz Sharif, who leans to the right politically, became Prime Minister in 1990 and oversaw a short-lived transfer of civilian power in 2013. Sharif was then ousted by the Supreme Court last year and sentenced earlier this month to 10 years in jail for corruption. This upheaval puts the election spotlight on four major political parties vying for control, as well as some emerging extremists thought to be backed by the military.
4. The four political parties include the following:
– Pakistan’s People Party The former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto (assassinated in 2007) was part of the PPP, which led the outgoing government coalition. Asif Ali Zardari, Bhutto’s widower, is the de facto leader of the PPP. Their son Bilawal will succeed him as party leader.
– Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz led by the ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
– Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, an emerging party led by former cricket player, Imran Khan. The PTI wants to create a welfare state, where the state is responsible for education, health, and employability of citizens. Many Christians fear Imran Khan as the country’s leader because he wants to go back to jirga, a traditional assembly of leaders that make decisions by consensus and according to the teachings of the Pashtunwali conservative ethical code. These non-written ethical codes are dangerous for religious freedom when mixed with the strict Islamic law. In the past, Khan has supported the Taliban cause in Afghanistan, although he denies that today.
– The Jamaat-e-Islami, a leading religious party with links to the Muslim Brotherhood. It is a conservative Islamist political party led by Siraj ul Haq.
5. Most of the opinion polls suggest an overall lead by Pakistan Muslim League’s Nawaz Sharif, with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s Imran Khan in a close second. Of these four parties, none really stands in the gap for Christian minorities.
“Who will build legislature to protect us against discrimination and Islamic extremism? Who will build more schools?” a local Christian told an ALIVE worker. “We really need God’s wisdom to determine who to vote for.”
If military-backed extremists are seated, it could mean more danger for Christians in Pakistan and a regression of democracy. It could also mean more difficulty in stopping alleged Pakistani backing of terror groups.
Please pray for much wisdom and discernment for Pakistani Christians at this time.