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March 4, 2021

Moot discusses minority commission’s powers and functioning

National

March 4, 2021

Speakers at a seminar stressed that the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) should highlight and resolve the problems of minorities, and shared recommendations to make the commission active.

The National Commission for Justice and Peace (Karachi office) organised the seminar the other day on the premises of the St. Patrick Cathedral to discuss the powers and functioning of the NCM, a governmental body.

Dr Jaipal Chhabria, an NCM member from Sindh, said that there should be a criterion for people from minorities to become part of the parliament or any commission at the time of nomination.

“We in the NCM are trying our best to make it a “commission by minorities, for minorities and of minorities,” he said. He said the commission had been concerned about the rise in incidents of forced conversions and the selling of property of minorities across the country.

The NCM was also keeping an eye on discrimination taking place against the minorities, forced conversions or marriages, biased content in the education syllabus, discrimination in availing the opportunity of jobs and desecration of religious places, and violence against the community, said Dr Chhabria.

He said religious minorities had been contributing always to the wellbeing of Pakistan since its creation till today, Zahid Farooq, a known rights activist, said that the minority commission must review itself and work for the rights of the minorities. He suggested including more members from other religious minority groups as well as women in the NCM.

Farooq, who is also Urban Resource Centre’s joint director, also asked the commission to take notice of the ongoing anti-encroachment drive in Karachi that is causing displacement of hundreds of minority families. He said that members of minority communities feared performing their religious worship when police and other people were deputed. “It is suggested in the judgment of 2014 that people of minority may be appointed as security guards so they themselves do the security of their religious place,” he said.

Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research joint director Zulfiqar Shah said that civil society and rights groups had struggled to pressure the government to form the minority commission. But he said that the minority commission announced, rather reconstituted by the PTI government in May last year, in no way could be termed an independent institution.

“The so-called commission has no legal cover, politically and religiously affiliated chair and members, and no autonomy in functions and resources,” he said.

NCJP deputy director Kashif Aslam said that there is no use in establishing commissions if the government can’t afford to accord them the status of Paris Principles, the international minimum standards for effective, and credible rights commission. He said there are six government officials in the NCM, besides 12 unofficial members. “Paris Principles clearly say that the commissions should have no relation with the state,” Aslam said.

He also said that in a petition about the NCM’s composition, a court of law had also given directions that the commission should be passed through the act of the parliament, not from the cabinet.

Pakistan Peoples Party MPA Anthony Naveed said that he had also recommended forming a provincial minority commission in Sindh. He said the year 2020 proved a bad year for minorities in Pakistan because of a rise in cases of forced conversions. Naveed said Sindh wsa the only province whose government had been making pro-minorities laws and taking a firm stand on the rights of minorities. NCJP coordinator Kashif Anthony said that his organisation had been working to create awareness among the people, particularly those belonging to minority communities, about their rights, and inform them about their duties.