LAHORE, Pakistan: Traumatised Christians in a Lahore slum where angry Muslims torched more than 100 homes say Pakistan’s two largest parties offer the only hope of protection at this week’s general election.
The Pakistan Muslim League-N of Nawaz Sharif, a man accused of being soft on the Taliban but tipped to win Saturday’s polls, and the main outgoing Pakistan People’s Party both gave affected families $5,000 each in compensation.
PML-N is the party in power in Punjab province, the home of the largest Christian community in Pakistan. PPP led the outgoing federal government.
While in the northwest, Christians feel religious parties offer them more protection, voters in Joseph Colony say they will opt for PML-N for the regional assembly and PPP for the national assembly, in gratitude for their support.
“They helped us cover our losses and gave 500,000 rupees ($5,000) to each family. So all of us have decided to vote for them,” said factory worker Sohail Masih.
Pakistan’s 86 million registered voters go to the polls on Saturday to elect four provincial assemblies and 272 lawmakers directly into the national assembly.
In the lower house of parliament, another 60 seats are allotted to women and 10 to religious minorities on a party ticket based on proportional representation.
Christians cannot directly elect Christian lawmakers. They vote like everyone else for different parties, which in turn choose their Christian candidates, in a process criticised as “selection” not election.
Only two percent of Pakistan’s overwhelmingly Muslim population of 180 million are Christian. The community is poor and complains of increasing discrimination.
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