Separate family laws a must to protect minorities
Karachi: Politicians, intellectuals and members of the civil society have called for devising separate family laws for all minority faiths for ensuring protection of their rights.
They were speaking at a seminar titled, “Safety and security of religious minorities: role of state and society”, organised by the Pakistan Institute of Labour, Education and Research (Piler) on Tuesday.
The speakers included Sorath Thebo, an MPA of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), lawyer Kalpana Devi, SSP Shehla Qureshi, Dr Riaz Sheikh from Szabist, general secretary of General Forum for Secular Pakistan, Javed Kazi, and Safiuddin Awan from Dastagir Legal Aid Centre.
The speakers lamented that Hindus did not have a law for the registration of their marriages which posed a number of serious problems for women who had separated from their husbands.
PML-N MPA Sorath Thebo said it was unfortunate that there was not adequate implementation of five percent job quota for minorities.
She was of the view that security was an issue for everyone in Pakistan, not only people who belonged to minority communities.
Kalpana Devi, a senior lawyer from Larkana, said she had received death threats for campaigning for equal rights for the people belonging to minority faiths.
She said minority representatives in assemblies were not elected by the people but by the parties, looking for an advantage.
“The parliamentarians do not try to amend laws for the benefit of minorities,” she said. “The forced conversion of Hindu girls is not the only problem in Sindh, there are many others including the lack of proper laws.”
She said there was no family law for Hindus. She revealed on the occasion that she had prepared a 599-page draft in this regard and forwarded it to the minority lawmakers but so far no action had been taken upon it.
Talking about the role of civil society for ensuring the rights of minorities, Riaz Sheikh, the dean of social sciences at SZABIST, said modern states denied the role of religion in politics.
He said the modern society was based on civil law, but marginality created a sense of vulnerability for people belonging to minority communities.
He called on the civil society to play its role of a watch dog and called for the removal of hate material from text books.
He pointed out that the Nehru-Liaquat Pact stipulated that the Evacuee Property Trust in India and Pakistan would be chosen from minority communities.
“But in Pakistan, not a single head has been chosen from the minority faith,” he said.
Writer Javed Kazi said more than 400 articles had been published about the incident in Badin when a body belonging to a member of the scheduled caste was dug out by religious zealots and thrown away on the road.
He said the narrative of Sufism should be used to counter the extremist leanings. He said the constitution was a social contract of the people and should protect the rights of every citizen.
However, he said, the Supreme Court’s verdict about minority rights was a way forward.
The chief of PILER, Karamat Ali, said pointed out that the 1940 resolution mentioned a need for a separate country for Muslims because of the disadvantages of the prevalent caste system of Hindus.
He said the caste system made members of the scheduled caste an easy target.
He asked the media to play its vital role in creating awareness about religious harmony and the need for a campaign for disseminating the responsibilities of citizens.