Friday October 07, 2022

NA expresses resolve to safeguard minorities’ rights

Forced conversions are an issue as Islam and the constitution did not permit forced conversions, says Bilawal Bhutto

By Asim Yasin & Muhammad Anis & News Desk
August 12, 2022
National Assembly of Pakistan. — APP/File
National Assembly of Pakistan. — APP/File

ISLAMABAD: Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has proposed to Speaker National Assembly Raja Pervez Ashraf to form a committee representing every political party to look into the problems and legislation relating to minorities like forced conversions and other issues of minorities.

“The forced conversions are an issue as Islam and the constitution did not permit forced conversions and we should come together and legislate to put an end to this,” he said while addressing the National Minorities Convention at the National Assembly in connection with the Diamond Jubilee celebrations of 1st Constituent Assembly on Thursday.

Chairman PPP and Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said this House must look into the quota issue for every community and whether the quota is being implemented and people are getting employment opportunities.

The Chairman PPP said the PPP has always tried to represent every community in elections and want the representation of every community in our system. “We have Mahesh Malani from Tharparkar who was directly elected as member of the National Assembly and we have Senator Krishna Kohli of the PPP, the first senator from her community,” he said.

The National Assembly organized the Minority Convention at the National Assembly hall. Through a resolution, the National Assembly emphasized the fundamental right of every citizen to profess, practice and propagate his or her religion subject to law, public order and morality.

The National Assembly’s resolution acknowledged the achievements of members of minorities in Pakistan who have served and aided the country in progressing. The National Assembly through the resolution also expressed its resolve to safeguard the rights and interests of the minorities of Pakistan through legislation. The resolution stated the National Assembly is cognizant of the responsibility of the state enshrined in Article 33 of the Constitution to discourage discrimination and parochial, racial, tribal, sectarian and provincial prejudices among the citizens.

 The National Assembly also recognizes the right to political inclusion and representation of minorities in the federal and provincial services and further emphasizes the right that religious denominations have to establish, maintain and manage their religious institutions and the duty of the state to uphold this right and protect their places of worship. The house also expressed proud to reiterate that the Constitution gives minorities the right of representation through ten reserved seats in the National Assembly and four in the Senate of Pakistan.

Meanwhile, President Dr Arif Alvi lauded the role being played by minorities, especially in the fields of education, health and social welfare. He said 11th August is celebrated as Minorities’ Day in Pakistan to acknowledge the invaluable contribution made by our minorities to the development of Pakistan and to reaffirm our commitment as a nation to safeguard their rights. “Indeed, the minorities in Pakistan are an integral part of our socio-national fabric, and on this day, I assure all minority communities that the government will make all efforts to safeguard their rights and work for their well-being,” said the President. He added “It is our shared responsibility to promote the spirit of love, brotherhood, and unity amongst ourselves for a strong and prosperous Pakistan.”

In a separate message, the Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said the government was taking steps to bring minorities into the mainstream by ensuring a level-playing field for them. “The idea is to enable and facilitate all segments of society, particularly our non-Muslim citizens, to take full part in the national life,” said the PM.

He said the government was taking steps to provide equal opportunities to minorities, such as allocation of special quota at representative fora, educational institutions and other services. He also mentioned other measures for the uplift of poor minorities including dedicated financial support for their emancipation. He said mending the fault lines of socio-religious exploitation besides eradicating its causes was the cornerstone of the government’s policies. “The day also reminds us of our constitutional, religious and political responsibility to protect their rights and freedoms,” said PM Shehbaz.

Presiding over the convention, Speaker Raja Pervez Ashraf said 11th August is the historic day when the founder of Pakistan Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah was elected as President of the first Constituent Assembly.

He said the founder of Pakistan in his inaugural address to the 1st Constituent Assembly presented the constitutional outline for a newly independent state of Pakistan where every citizen of the state was declared an equal citizen without distinction of colour, race, religion, caste and language.

He said that this convention is a unique convention of its kind in which parliamentarians as well as community leaders, representatives of all minority communities are participating. He said that the Constitution of Pakistan guarantees sanctity, security and development of every member of the community including minorities. He said that this diamond jubilee would set future goals for the people of Pakistan for the coming 75 years. The convention was attended by federal ministers, parliamentarians, members of provincial assemblies, and leaders, representatives and notables of all religious minorities.