Christian plans to run for president in 2007
* Not deterred by constitutional bar on Christians as president
* Says 1973 Constitution illegal, will move Supreme Court
By Anjum Herald Gill
LAHORE: Army officer turned priest Dr Bishop Maj (r) Timothius Nasir has announced his candidacy for the country’s presidential elections scheduled for 2007.
When reminded that according to the 1973 Constitution, a non-Muslim citizen could not even submit nomination papers as a presidential candidate, he said, “To me the 1973 Constitution is illegal and I am soon going to file a constitutional petition with the Supreme Court of Pakistan requesting it to abrogate the 1973 Constitution or the discriminatory clauses that draw lines between personal matters of faith of an individual and equality of citizenship.”
The soldier-priest is of the opinion that if he is an equal citizen of Pakistan he stands qualified to be elected to any public office. “If my faith draws a line to my optimum status as a Pakistani, then I am not an equal citizen of Pakistan. The Supreme Court will have to tell me where my status as a Pakistani citizen ends and that as a subject begins.”
In a pamphlet that he distributed on Tuesday, explaining his point of view on the legality of the 1973 Constitution, Bishop Maj (r) Nasir said that on December 16, 1971 after the secession of East Pakistan, the “left over National Assembly” and all West Pakistani provincial assemblies automatically stood dissolved. “Former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto should have obtained a new mandate from the people of West Pakistan. Fresh elections should have been held. After December 16, 1971 the existing National Assembly and provincial assemblies had no legal status to operate as representative bodies of the people of Pakistan. Therefore, any or all action taken by the defunct National Assembly including framing the 1973 Constitution stands null and void automatically. Thus the 1973 Constitution stands illegal in its entirety”, he said.
Quoting Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s presidential address to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on August 11, 1947, “You are free; you are free to go to your temples. You are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed, that has nothing to do with the business of State.”
The Quaid said, “Now, I think we should keep that in front of us as an ideal and you will find in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims will cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of an individual, but in the political sense.”
He claimed that Jinnah had mentioned Christians and churches in his speech, but the government had omitted these when publishing the speech.
He said that Pakistan was never meant to be a theocratic state. “In a political sense all citizens of Pakistan have equal status and the office of the President of Pakistan is not a religious office. It is a political office and any citizen has the right to hold this office without discrimination of faith, sect or creed,” he said.
“If I am an equal citizen of Pakistan, then I have the right to contest any or all elections in Pakistan including presidential elections, because religion or caste or creed have nothing to do with the business of the state.”
Asked if he would be a candidate against President General Pervez Musharraf in 2007, the bishop said, “Sure, if he is a presidential candidate. This does not mean that I am against General Musharraf.” Nasir said he was born in Pakistan and joined the army through the same process as any other officer of the Pakistan Army including General Musharraf.
“I graduated from the same military academy and got my basic artillery training from the same School of Artillery as General Musharraf. I retired as a field officer and have command and administration the experience,” he said.
“I am an equal citizen of Pakistan - or at least claimed or considered to be an equal citizen - and my religious belief has nothing to do with my political or national liabilities for the prosperity of Pakistan. If I can protect Pakistan, why can’t I lead Pakistan on the path to prosperity?”
Asked what he felt his chances were of winning the presidential election, he said, “I may not have any chance to win the presidency, but even filing nomination papers for the presidential elections would be a victory. Having no chance to win the presidency does not mean that I must sit quietly on the back benches forever and not make any effort for the rights that were guaranteed to me by the father of the nation,” he said.