National Minorities Day events cancelled due to floods, coronavirus

August 11, 2020

Because of flooding from monsoon rains and the coronavirus situation, the Pakistan Peoples Party and minority rights groups have cancelled their activities on the eve of National Minority Day that...

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Because of flooding from monsoon rains and the coronavirus situation, the Pakistan Peoples Party and minority rights groups have cancelled their activities on the eve of National Minority Day that is marked on August 11 (today).

With reference to the famous speech of the father of the nation, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, to the Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947, the PPP’s federal government in 2009 had declared August 11 as National Minority Day.

The PPP is the only political party that organises public gatherings in Karachi in connection with the day. Also, various minority groups also organise events to mark the day. The PPP Minority Wing’s Sindh chapter has announced cancellation of their activities in connection with the day.

Anthony Naveed, PPP Minority Wingh’s provincial secretary information and MPA, said on Monday that the party had decided not to organise any event on National Minorities Day because of the floods in the province and the coronavirus in the country.

“The party’s minority wing has cancelled its August 11 activities on the directives of the party chairman, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari,” Naveed told The News.

Instead of organising any event, the party would arrange special prayers at worship places of the minorities, including temples, churches and gurdwaras, so as to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, he said.

Sardar Ramesh Singh, a Pakistan Sikh Council leader, said his group was also not organising any event to mark the day because of the coronavirus. However, he said the federal and Sindh governments should take special steps to include members in the Sikh community in the minority affairs departments.

“We also appreciate the federal government’s decision to form the National Commission for Minorities, but it did not include representation of Sindh’s Sikh community in the commission,” Singh told The News.

HRCP

Observing National Minorities Day, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has said both state and society must be true to Jinnah’s vision of a country in which religion or belief is a personal matter and no basis for differences of citizenship.

On National Minorities Day, the HRCP calls on the state to implement the 2014 Supreme Court judgment, which protects the right to manifest one’s religion or belief in private or public free of coercion.

In a statement, it has demanded that the government set up an autonomous statutory national commission for minorities’ rights to replace the ineffectual National Commission for Minorities reconstituted earlier this year. The Single National Curriculum, which violates the constitutional guarantee that no member of a religious minority will be required to receive religious instruction not relevant to their own religion, must be revised to reflect that a uniform standard of education is not the same as a uniform curriculum.

The HRCP has also demanded that the Tahafuz-e-Bunyad-e-Islam bill in Punjab be retracted, and the federal and provincial governments refrain from law-making that infringes upon any community’s right to freedom of religion or belief.

Shahbaz Bhatti

Shahbaz Bhatti, the federal minorities’ affairs minister in the previous PPP government, had worked hard to persuade the party leadership to declare August 11 as National Minority Day when it came into power.

Bhatti, along with other minority leaders, had founded the “All-Pakistan Minorities Alliance” in 1985. He had joined the PPP in 2002 and worked tirelessly to protect the rights of the non-Muslim communities during the PPP government from 2008 till his assassination.

Bhatti was assassinated in early March 2011 in an attack on his vehicle in Islamabad. Because of his hard work, the then prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, had declared August 11 as National Minority Day.



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