Call for early establishment of minority rights commission
KARACHI: Celebrating the legislation for the protection of minorities, representatives of religious minority communities and rights organisations on the occasion of International Human Rights Day demanded early establishment of a Minority Rights Commission in true spirit of the law.
Featuring music, songs and dance as well as prayers and worship, the event was organised by the South Asia Partnership Pakistan (SAP-PK) on Saturday at a hotel, where members of the Hindu, Christian and Sikh communities and other participants thanked lawmakers of the Sindh Assembly and others for playing their due role in approving The Criminal Law (Protection of Minorities), Bill, 2015.
The bill, which was passed by the Sindh Assembly on Nov 24, made forced religious conversion a punishable criminal act.
The members of Hindu community celebrated the occasion with aarti.
Minister for Social Welfare Shamim Mumtaz assured the participants that the legislation would be implemented in its true spirit. She said the commission would be established and made functional soon as envisaged in the law.
Ravi Dawani of the All-Pakistan Hindu Panchayat, Rabia Waqar and James John of the Norwegian Church Aid, PPP lawmakers Khatumal Jeewan and Lal Chand, Muttahida Qaumi Movement lawmaker Naila Munir, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf lawmaker Samar Ali Khan, rights activist Anis Haroon, chairperson of the Sindh Human Rights Commission Justice (retd) Majida Rizvi, Irfan Mufti of the SAP-PK, and others shared their views on the legislation for minorities and its implementation in Pakistan.
On the occasion, civil society organisations vowed to raise a collective voice for the enforcement of law against forced conversions. They said they would also talk to the federal government to seek establishment of a national minority rights commission for protection of religious minorities.
The MQM lawmaker vowed that her party was ready to raise the voice and provide unconditional support for protection of religious minorities in Sindh.
The PTI lawmaker said his party had voted for the commission bill and would always raise the voice in the assembly for its implementation. “Some 23 per cent of Pakistanis were belonging to the religious minorities when Pakistan came into being, but Pakistan failed to provide them security and now just 4pc of them are remaining,” he said.
Pakistan Mulsim League-Nawaz lawmaker Sourath Thebo said political parties had positively contributed for the rights of the minorities. The parties, particularly in Sindh, were ‘very liberal and secular’, she said, adding that her party would pass the minority rights commission in Punjab.
Khatumal Jeewan said the PPP had struggled for the rights of religious minorities and it was committed to curb all kinds of discrimination against the minorities in Sindh. He said the PPP would also notify holidays on the festivals of the minorities and provide advanced salaries to them.
Lalchand said certain forces were threatening the minorities, forcing them to migrate from Sindh. But the PPP was committed to offer a peaceful life to the religious minorities, he said. “We are born in Sindh and would not leave our motherland,” he added.
Kalpina Devi, M Parkash, Ravi Dawani, Anees Haroon, Noor Naz Agha, Punhal Sario, Karamat Ali of the Pakistan Institute for Labour Education and Research (Piler), Javed Soz, and Shahnaz Sheedi also spoke.
Meanwhile, civil society representatives addressing a press conference on the International Human Rights Day of 2016 reiterated their commitment to continue their struggle for defending fundamental rights of citizens, strengthening democratic space, accountability and people’s empowerment.
Karamat Ali and Mohammad Tahseeen of Pakistan Civil Society Forum, Krishan Sharma of REAT Network and Tanveer Jehan, Peter Jacob and Zulfiqar Shah of Pakistan Human Rights Defenders Network highlighted the need for the protection of all those raising their voice to defend public interest through democratic means.
Referring to the murders of Perween Rehman, Sabeen Mahmud, Rashid Rahman, Zafar Lund, journalists, academicians, political workers and social activists, it was noted that such acts received encouragement from a hostile environment constructed against the civil society. They expressed concern over shrinking space for the civil society to operate in Pakistan where the state denied support to civil society facing threats from private and non-state actors in the form of intimidation, harassment and censorship.