KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghan President Hamid Karzai issued a legislative decree Wednesday giving minority Hindus and Sikhs a reserved seat in the country's lower house of parliament for the next parliamentary elections in 2015.
Karzai used his power to issue the decree while lawmakers were on vacation, and after they voted against a proposal giving Hindus and Sikhs parliamentary representation.
Lawmakers have the final say on whether the decree will become law and are expected to vote on Karzai's decree after they return to work on Saturday.
More than 80,000 Hindus and Sikhs lived in Afghanistan in the late 1970s, but most fled during decades of war and unrest, said Anarkali Honaryar, a Hindu senator who supports the decree. There are now between 2,500 and 3,000 Hindus and Sikhs living in the country of about 30 million, she said.
Nazer Ahmad Hanefi, a lawmaker from the western Herat province, said he would urge colleagues to vote against the decree, contending that that the number of Hindus and Sikhs still in Afghanistan is closer to 500. Under Karzai's decree, the creation of the special seat would raise the number of lower house parliamentary members from 249 to 250.
"If we give one seat for 500 people, we should have thousands of parliamentary seats," Hanefi said.