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Freedom of religion and belief: Minorities facing systematic discrimination, violence, claim speakers

By Our Correspondent
November 22, 2021
Freedom of religion and belief: Minorities facing systematic discrimination, violence, claim speakers

LAHORE: The speakers at Asma Jahangir Conference 2021 claimed that religious and sectarian minorities suffer systematic discrimination and violence in Pakistan.

“Despite all discrimination, we own this land and accept Constitution of Pakistan,” said speakers while attending a session on “Impact of extremism on religious and sectarian Minorities”, under theme of ‘Freedom of Religion and Belief’ on the last day of a two-day Asma Jahangir Conference 2021 at a local hotel on Sunday.

Pervez Hoodbhoy, academic and activist, moderated the session. He said that the Two-Nation Theory and the Objectives Resolution laid basis for the systematic discrimination of minorities in Pakistan. The Christians, Hindus and Parsis, over time, chose to leave Pakistan due to discrimination and violence, he claimed.

Lal Chand Malli, MNA, said that coming from most backward area of Umarkot and Tharparkar, “we (the minorities) own our land and country and we accept the Constitution of Pakistan. “The extremists have their own agenda/ interpretation, but we are torch-bearers of Asma Jahangir,” he added.

The minority MNA said the government, under the Ministry of Human Rights, had formed a parliamentary committee to protect minorities against forced conversions, but the law was blocked at the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII).

Jalila Haider, representative of Hazara community, termed Hazaras “double minority” as they faced systematic discrimination. “The extremists are empowered due to encouragement by the state as Hazaras suffer gross violations of human rights,” she said.

Haris Khaliq, secretary general of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), said that there was confusion from the very outset as to what should Pakistan look like. “The Quaid-e-Azam advocated Pakistan to be an inclusive society for minorities, but at the same time declared it a laboratory of Islam,” he said, adding that it caused a lot of confusion about the ideological roadmap of Pakistan.

Kalpana Devi, Additional Advocate General Sindh High Court, also expressed grave concerns over the state of forced conversions of minorities especially in Sindh. “I am a proud Sindhi,” she said, adding that she belonged to Sindh – the land of Sufis as her forefathers had not migrated. “We love and respect founder of Pakistan as well as founder of Constitution,” she added.

Qamar Suleman said that it was government’s obligation to provide security to its citizens and minorities just like it was government’s responsibility to provide health and education to masses. He urged civil society to unite and fight for the rights and play positive role in development of society. Kalyan Singh Kalyan, Assistant Professor at GCU, was also one of the speakers at the session.