Calling for stringent laws to end religious discrimination in the country, the participants of a minorities convention have unanimously reiterated that Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s famous speech promising religious freedom should be adopted as a guiding document to form laws and policies.
The gathering titled ‘Convention on Minorities Rights: Moving Beyond Promises and Assurances’ was held on Tuesday in connection with the National Minorities Day observed every year on August 11. It had been organised by the Center for Social Justice (CSJ) in collaboration with the National Commission for Justice and Peace and the Peace and Development Organization.
In 2009, the then Pakistan Peoples Party government had declared
August 11 as National Minorities Day with reference to the famous speech the Quaid-e-Azam delivered to the Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947 in which he had said Pakistani citizens were free to go their mosques or temples or any other place of worship.
Speaking on the occasion, Peter Jacob, the executive director of the CSJ, the convention’s purpose was to bring the stakeholders on board to discuss and find solutions to eradicating the problems that minority communities in Pakistan were facing.
Kishwar Zahra, an MNA from the Muttahida Quami Movement, Anthony Naveed, a Pakistan Peoples Party MPA, Mehmood Maulvi, a Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf leader, Nand Kumar, a Pakistan Muslim League-Functional leader, Mangla Sharma, a Hindu rights activist and MQM MPA, Muslim Pervaiz of the Jamaat-e-Islami, Karamat Ali, the director of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research, Sheema Kirmani of the Tehreek-e-Niswan and Mahnaz Rehman of the Aurat Foundation were prominent speakers at the gathering.
In a resolution, the convention called upon the new elected governments in the Centre and provinces to pass a law that provides a definition, grounds for prosecution and punishment for acts of discrimination, particularly on the basis of religious and belief, in order to effectively implement the freedoms and equality guaranteed in Articles 20 and 25 of the Constitution.
The convention also demanded that an autonomous and independent statutory national council or commission for minorities must be constituted with a mandate to monitor the implementation of the rights of minorities, to oversee the policies and give advice on policy matters.
The gathering also urged that a regulatory body equipped with adequate powers, resources and procedure must be instituted for proper implementation of the job quota reserved for religious minorities in government service.
“The Christian Marriage and Divorce Acts should be amended to make them comply with human rights standards. Moreover, a common civil code for marriages in communities, such as Baha’is, Parsis and Kalash should be enacted to regulate their matrimonial affairs,” the resolution said.
The gathering also demanded that education policy and textbooks must be reviewed to remove discrimination based on religion and to make education an instrument for promoting diversity and social harmony.