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April 25, 2021

NCM chief criticised for rejecting proposal of SC-appointed commission

Karachi

April 25, 2021

Karachi’s minority and human rights groups have expressed dismay at the Pakistan’s National Commission for Minorities (NCM) for rejecting a recommendation to exclude Islamic topics from compulsory textbooks.

Chela Ram Kewlani, the NCM’s chairman and Hindu activist from Sindh, rejected a report by a Supreme Court-appointed commission that suggested all Islamic content from the single national curriculum should be exclusively placed in the textbooks of Islamic studies/Islamiyat, a subject compulsory only for Muslim students.

Showing their concerns over the NCM head’s statement, leaders of the People’s Commission on Minority Rights (PCMR), an alliance of various minority and human rights group, said Kelwani had supported the violation of the fundamental right of religious minorities guaranteed under Article 22 of Constitution of Pakistan.

In a joint statement on behalf of the PCMR, Justice (retd) Kailashnath Kohli, Advocate Kalpana Devi, M Parkash Mehtani, Dr A H Nayyar and Peter Jacob said Kelwani apparently was uninformed of the opinion of educationists, the recent directions of the Supreme Court as well as the Pakistan constitution on the subject.

“The educationists and minority rights groups have long campaigned for improving the standard of education and adhering to the constitutional restriction on religious teachings in subjects that are compulsory to students of all faiths. The NCM cannot ignore the interest of the minority students in education,” said the statement. “The PCMR holds that by doing so the NCM will betray the trust of religious minority communities whose children have for years been subjected to a forced teaching of Islamic studies in schools.”

Peter Jacob, PCMR’s chairperson, said that Article 22(1) of the constitution safeguards the minorities’ right to an education free of any religious instruction in compulsory subjects. It implies that no lesson in any textbook that is compulsory to students of all faiths should contain material specific to any religion.

The stance taken by the citizens and responsible platforms should not be for appeasing anyone; therefore, the PCMR would work for the enforcement of the directions of the Supreme Court given during February and March 2021, and the 8th

report of the One-Man-Commission in the light of Article 22(1) of the Constitution of Pakistan, he said.

He reiterated that it was a duty of all citizens and forums to uphold the command of the constitution.