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January 18, 2019

Minorities’ rights: Dr Suddle-led commission set up to enforce SC order

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January 18, 2019

ISLAMABAD: In 2014, the Supreme Court (SC) delivered a landmark verdict regarding the protection and enforcement of minorities’ rights.

Four years down the line, it has not been implemented yet, forcing the apex court to set up a commission for the execution of its order. A three-member bench has constituted one-member commission under the leadership of Dr Shoaib Suddle for the enforcement of its orders. A four-member committee has also been formed. Other than Dr Suddle, Saqib Jillani, Dr Rumesh Kumar and an additional attorney general will be its members.

Saqib, an advocate of the Supreme Court, is son of former chief justice Tasadduq Jillani who had taken a rare suo motu notice after a suicide attack on a church in Peshawar in 2013 coupled with threats being extended to the Kalash tribe and the Ismaili community in Chitral. Justice Jillani-led bench had then passed a judgment on the minority rights after conducting 16 hearings in the case.

The order required the federal government to set up a task force for developing a strategy on religious tolerance, revision of curriculum for promoting a culture of tolerance, a special quota for minorities in the federal and provincial services, action against hate speech, the establishment of a national council for minorities and a special force for the protection of the worship places of the minorities.

Although a couple of provincial governments have taken steps for revising curriculum, nothing else has been done to enforce the court order. The Sindh government has revised it at primary level whereas rectification at the middle and the matric level curriculum has not been done yet. Punjab has only set up a committee and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa has not even formed that.

“The KP is at the top in terms of hate material,” said PTI MNA Dr Rumesh Kumar who is member of the committee set up by the SC and was consulted in the past when the court passed the judgment in 2014. Punjab follows KP in hate material and then comes Sindh which has revised the curriculum at the primary level. Dr Rumesh said, “In Balochistan, I couldn’t figure out hate material in the text books at all.”

Other than insecurity, another important issue the minorities face is absence of any quota in the government services. Although the court has ordered the reservation of quota, no step has been taken either at federal level or provincial level. Dr Rumesh said he met the chief secretaries; the most negligent response was from the KP chief secretary; others KP chief secretary; others agreed to take steps but didn’t walk the talk. Likewise, no measure has been taken for ensuring the protection of minorities and their worship places.

It was in this context that Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and the activists working on minority rights had filed a petition in January last year to remind that the 2014 judgment had not been implemented. Taking cognizance of the matter, the court set up one-man commission in January this year.

Dr Suddle, the head of the commission, has been tasked with spearheading efforts to implement the judgment. The committee members will assist him on the need basis. His appointment is initially for three months which may be extended from time to time by the court.

The mandate of the commission is to take all measures for implementation whereas the federal and provincial governments will render full support to him in carrying out this assignment. The commission will have power to issue directions for the implementation of the order.

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