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Pakistan: Elections

Volume 472: debated on Tuesday 26 February 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) whether he has received representations on the number of candidates from religious minorities in the elections in Pakistan; and if he will make a statement; (188022)

(2) whether he has had discussions with the Pakistani government on the political representation of minorities in Pakistan.

[holding answer 26 February 2008]: In our regular contact with the Government of Pakistan at ministerial and official level, bilaterally and through the EU, we have stressed the need for free and fair elections. The elections, which took place on 18 February, were an opportunity for the people of Pakistan to exercise their democratic voice and participate fully in the process of electing their new government. We welcome the EU electoral observer mission (EOM) report, released on 20 February, which assessed that the elections were competitive, despite the well-documented procedural problems.

We will want to work with the new government to help build the institutional framework necessary for a sustained democratic transition and ensure that the fundamental rights of all Pakistani citizens particularly the most vulnerable (women, minorities and children) are guaranteed as laid down in the Constitution of Pakistan and in accordance with international human rights standards. An important part of this will be addressing the weaknesses in the electoral system identified in the EU EOM's report.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials recently met with representatives from the Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement, a non-governmental organisation working on behalf of Christians in Pakistan, as part of our ongoing engagement with stakeholder communities. Officials remain in regular contact with them on minority religious rights issues.