Call for removal of hate content from curriculum
KARACHI: Speakers at a programme held at a local hotel on Wednesday to mark Human Rights Day underlined the need to remove text based on hate and discrimination from the educational curriculum that, they suggested, should include the contribution of non-Muslims towards the establishment of Pakistan.
A biased mindset produced by discriminatory curriculum, they pointed out, was a big hurdle in the way of having an inclusive society that accorded equal rights to all citizens.
The event was jointly organised by the South Asia Partnership Pakistan (SAP-PAK) and the Directorate of Law, Justice and Human Rights.
The speakers, including experts from diverse fields — though they differed on the scale of discrimination the minority communities faced — mostly agreed that Pakistan’s Constitution and laws were discriminatory.
It was said the country couldn’t fulfil its commitments to the United Nations on human rights as its laws were in contravention of international law.
“Even the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act, 2013 is not being enforced because the judges take guidance from some past decisions of the Shariat court, which allowed marriage in puberty,” said Veer Ji Kohli, a lawyer from Hyderabad.
He referred to the Aug 11 speech of the Quaid-i-Azam and said there was no mention of it in any law book or the curriculum.
Political analyst and executive director of the Centre for Peace and Civil Society Jami Chandio spoke on how the concept of human rights transformed over the centuries and said every individual in the world had some basic rights of which they could never be deprived even in a conflict zone.
Pakistan, he said, had signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that accorded equal status to all people. “But Pakistan is a theocratic state. Our constitution has discriminatory clauses, for instance, a non-Muslim can’t head the country.”
The right to freedom of speech in the Constitution, he said, was also accorded with certain limitations that included restriction on speaking against the security and defence of the country. Though the country had a marriage law for the Muslims, the religious minorities had no such law here.
According to him, hostile conditions that included increasing incidents of forced conversion and kidnapping for ransom in the interior of Sindh had forced many Hindus to leave Pakistan.
“In earlier decades, rich Hindus left the country for greener pastures. But now the poorest of the poor of the Hindu community are leaving for India. That is tragic,” said Mr Chandio, adding that it’s the largest migration of Hindus after Pakistan’s independence.
Jaipal Chaberia, representing the Pak Hindu Forum, said members of the religious minority communities were as talented as other Pakistanis and should be given the opportunity to become part of the civil and military bodies and to head them.
“Why doesn’t the government make a Hindu head of the Kashmir committee? We want to represent the Kashmir case in the world and India,” he said, adding that Hindus were not just barred from becoming Pakistan’s president, they also couldn’t be its chief election commissioner, chief justice or a military general.
Members of the Hindu community also voiced their grievances against the blasphemy law, forced conversions and, what they called, partisan attitude of courts.
They asked why judges didn’t allow kidnapped and forcibly converted girls to meet their parents. Hindu girls were preached about Islam against their wishes in shelter homes, where they were kept during the trial, they complained.
In her brief comments, retired justice Majida Rizvi said religious extremism was not being controlled at any level in the country, and society was growing intolerant.
Shahnaz Sheedi of SAP-PK, Advocate Rochiram, Advocate Zia Awan, Ravi Dawani of the All Hindu Panchayat, and Mohammad Hussain Mehanti of the Jamaat-i-Islami also spoke.
Event at NJV school
A number of students participated in a programme held at the NJV Government Higher Secondary School to mark Human Rights Day on Wednesday.
The event was organised by the Strengthening Participatory Organisation in collaboration with the regional directorate of Human Rights, Karachi.
During the event, the students were informed about their basic rights as citizens of Pakistan and motivated to promote social harmony.
Students from Sindh Madrassat-ul-Islam, SITE Model School and Red Rose School System also took part in the programme.