Call for protection of non-Muslim rights
KARACHI: The Sindh Rural Partners Organisation (SRPO) held a consultation on minority rights here on Friday with several minority group representatives, human rights activists and political party representatives discussing the problems faced by the country’s minorities even after 68 years of independence.
Mangla Sharma of the Pakistan Hindu Council said that all the organisations fighting for minority rights here were divided on what to do and which issue to raise. “Some are fighting over the forced conversions of minorities, some are fighting against hate element. They should take up one cause at a time and join hands while fighting for each,” she said.
Erum Javed of the Aurat Foundation said that they had drafted a forced conversion bill, a Christian marriage bill, too. “A legislation on hate material is also important. And we need to look into merging all these bills to make our voice for demanding minority rights louder,” she said. “Right now I see no political will to change the present mindset. In 2002 when Muslim seats were increased in the parliament with a census there was no increase in minority seats,” she added.
Ravi Dhawani, general secretary of the All Pakistan Hindu Panchayat raised the issue of discrimination. “If he or she is a student, a Hafiz-i-Quran may be given 30 extra marks in exams but a Hindu who knows the Geeta by heart or a Christian who has learnt the Bible by heart won’t enjoy the same benefits,” he said.
“Then when a Hindu girl is forcibly made to convert to Islam by a maulvi who thinks he is doing Islam a great service, she is also married off the same day with the marriage also consummated before she can even meet her parents. And 90 per cent of such cases are never reported,” he pointed out.
Iqbal Detho, provincial manager of advocacy and campaigns at Save the Children, said that according to a Supreme Court of Pakistan judgement of June 19, 2014, all the provinces of the country would look after the rights of minorities. “Also there will be a special force for protecting the religious places of minorities. The government structures exist, the district vigilance committee is there but there has been no end to the minority problems,” he said.
Dr Abdul Qayyum Soomro, adviser on religious affairs to the Sindh government, said there should not be a word as ‘minorities’ used to identify a community. “They are also Pakistanis so deal with them as such. Any problem, any issue or incident concerning the non-Muslim Pakistanis can be resolved together,” he said.
Advocate Javed Qazi said that unless we bring back the original constitution of Pakistan minus Ziaul Haq’s amendments things won’t really improve for the minorities.
Kheal Das Kohistani, general secretary, Pakistan Muslim League-N Minority Wing Sindh, said that Ziaul Haq started most problems for the minorities and this continued till Pervez Musharraf’s time. “Now all parties need to sit on one table and contribute to the cause of minorities,” he said.
Dr Sham Sundar said that there was a need for holding seminars about tolerance.
PML-N MPA Sorath Thebo said that the country belonged to the entire nation and the nation included minorities. President of the PPP minority wing MPA Lal Chand Ukrani said that minorities were neither criminals nor terrorists and yet they were looked down upon. “And outside people say that in Pakistan Muslims can’t sit together with minorities. It gives the country a bad name,” he said.
Earlier, SRPO’s Nasir Panhwar said that they were in the process of setting up minority rights cells in Mirpurkhas, Umerkot and Tharparkar.
Zahida Detho, SRPO’s executive director, said that they would be engaging the local community in the three districts while showing them how to organise themselves at the grass-roots level. “There is a big population of minorities, especially Hindus, in Mirpurkhas, Umerkot and Tharparkar who have no access to police, administration, etc. But they can come to SRPO’s minority cells,” she said.