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February 12, 2019

People’s Assembly approves draft bill for minorities’ rights body

Islamabad

February 12, 2019

Islamabad: The People’s Assembly working under the aegis of the People’s Commission for Minorities’ Rights (PCMR) and Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) approved a draft bill for the establishment of the National Commission for Minorities’ Rights.

Around 300 participants representing different parts of the country and cross sections discussed the draft thoroughly before approving it unanimously. The bill provides for an autonomous, independent and permanent National Commission for Minorities’ Rights.

PCMR patron-in-chief IA Rehman said establishing the National Commission for Minorities’ Rights was a task long overdue. He said the Liaquat-Nehro Pact signed in 1950 and Action Plan for Human Rights of 2016, the Supreme Court judgement issued on 19 June 2014 (SMC No. 1 of 2014), all required this commission to be constituted and therefore, the government should introduce the law without further delay.

PCMR Chairperson Peter Jacob said the political parties had promised to establish the said commission in their election manifestos 2018 and therefore, they should support legislation in parliament.

He said the proposed commission must have a broad mandate to monitor, evaluate the quality of implementation of laws and policies, protect and promote the rights of minorities as well as contribute making new laws and policy.

Lawyer Parkash Mahtani cited the example of Sindh Commission for Minorities rights which was enacted upon in 2016, though the rules of business are yet to be framed and the Commission is yet to be formed. He said delays in implementing the laws failed the very purpose that these were made for.

Saroop Ijaz advocate said the proposed commission must be constituted in accordance with UN Paris principles that emphasise autonomy from political influence, financial independence and legal cover, the appointment of competent members, broad mandate based on universal human rights norms and standards.

Kalpana Devi advocate said the members of the proposed commission should be appointed on merit and the membership should reflect pluralism by extending it to persons representing different religious minority and majority communities in order to make it an empowered and operational body.

Saqib Jillani advocate said the role of Shoaib Suddle Implementation Commission established by the Supreme Court was address the unsatisfactory implementation of the said judgment and therefore, the establishment of the Implementation Commission should not be confused with the purpose of the draft bill. On the contrary, it underlines the need for a permanent commission in order to help find solutions to stringent issues that minorities face, he added.

Bishop Alexander John Malik said it was time that economic, social and cultural of marginalization of minorities in Pakistan is addressed. The government and civil society must work together to ensure equal and equitable rights guaranteed in the constitution of Pakistan.

Wajahat Masood, the chairperson of the Centre for Social Justice, said the direct and indirect discrimination perpetuate marginalisation hence institutionalising the equality of rights, was imperative and removing the existing barriers to enjoyment of rights an urgency.

Justice (r) Nasira Javed Iqbal said that the public-private partnership should help foster closer relationship beyond all distinctions and therefore, discrimination in the name of religion had to be removed.

Dr Kalyan Singh said the government must implement Jillani judgment in letter and spirit for strengthening respect of human rights and rule of law in Pakistan.

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