The government is scrapping electoral rules that discriminate against Christians and other religious minorities—and Christians are elated.

Pakistan announced plans on January 16 to abolish the Separate Election System. The system, in place nationally since 1984, permits Christians and other religious minorities to vote only for candidates of their own faith.

"We are no longer second-class citizens. We are now full-fledged citizens of Pakistan," said Bishop Samuel Pervez, president of the National Council of Churches of Pakistan. "This has been a long-standing demand of the Christian community."

Under the Separate Election System, religious minorities received 10 seats of the 217 in the National Assembly—four for Christians, four for Hindus, and two for people of other religions. About 3.6 million of Pakistan's population of 156 million are Christians. About 96 percent of the population is Muslim.

The next general elections are scheduled for October.

The bishop said that Christians had "certainly benefited" from the declared determination of Pakistan's president to deal with terrorist and radical Muslim groups. Two years ago, pressure from Muslim radicals forced President Pervez Musharraf to backtrack on a promise to amend the controversial blasphemy law.

"Now the situation is different," the bishop said. "These groups have been banned and most of the leaders are behind bars."

Related Elsewhere

Previous related Christianity Today articles include:

Pakistani Christians Praise Plan to End 'Religious Apartheid'Election rules discriminated against Christians and other religious minorities, say leaders. (Jan. 22, 2002)
Pakistani Christians Fight Against 'Apartheid' in Election SystemUnder rule, citizens cannot vote for candidates outside their own religious affiliation. (August 3, 2001)
Pakistan's Christians Demand End to 'Religious Apartheid' at PollsElection system allows religious minorities to vote only for candidates of their own faith. (Sept. 18, 2000)

For more coverage of Pakistan, see Christianity Today'sWorld Report and Yahoo full coverage.

In October, BBC analyzed Pakistan's Christian minority.

Visit the Islamic Government of Pakistan's official site.

Read the 1973 Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

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