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Christians in Pakistan are waging a vigorous campaign against the Separate Electorate System (SES) which many church members believe imposes a form of religious apartheid on elections in the mainly Muslim nation.The election system, they claim, marginalizes them and other religious minorities by allowing to vote only for candidates of their own faith.Protestant and Catholic leaders are particularly concerned about proposals, known as the "Plan 2000" and the "Devolution Plan," which have been drawn up by the government of Pakistan and will allow elections on a non-party basis for local governing bodies at village level. While the church leaders do not condemn the main measures of the devolution plan, they claim that because it retains the SES, which the government had promised to abolish, it is a "counterfeit to basic democracy." The religious leaders made their criticisms in a statement released at a press conference on September 5 in Multan, in Punjab province. Bishop Victor John Mal, of the Church of Pakistan, said that the churches' rejection of the Devolution Plan was "prompted by government's decision to continue with the separate [religion-based] electorate" within village elections. The proposals were announced by the country's leader, General Pervez Musharraf, on August 14, the 53rd anniversary of the Pakistan's independence."So far nothing has done to redress our grievance. So, we keep protesting," Bishop Mal told ENI in a telephone interview.The press conference was part of the ecumenical campaign led by Christian Organizations for Social Action (COSAP), which is demanding the abolition of the SES.Churches throughout Pakistan observed Sunday, September 3 as a "day of prayer" for the abolition of SES and "for courage ...

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September 2000

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