Government urged to implement Court directives on minority rights
Government urged the implementation of the court directives about protection of minorities; reforming curriculum for fostering tolerance; setting up Commission for Minorities Rights, etc. It was stated by Speakers at symposium organized by the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) and Peoples Commission for Minorities’ Rights (PCMR).
Minister for Human Rights and Minorities Affairs, Ijaz Alam Augustine stated that Punjab government is introducing a minorities’ empowerment package encompassing minority quota in higher education, remission in punishment for religious education, and religious education in educational institutions according to their conviction.
MNA Shunila Ruth reiterated government’s commitment to zero tolerance against discrimination and hate speech, and of making sincere efforts for turning PTI’s promises into action regarding protection and empowerment of minorities. She stated, all children must have right to study their own religion in educational institutions.
The director of Punjab Curriculum and Textbooks Board, Dr. Tahir Mehmood reiterated its commitment to delete any content that promote hatred, and is harmful for making peaceful coexistence possible.
Peter Jacob, director Centre for Social Justice emphasized that the institutional protection for minorities will reduce human rights violations and will help improve relations between different faith groups. He said that judgment given by the Supreme Court in 2014 is a pathway to tolerance and social harmony. Jacob stated “It is discouraging that the policy documents issued by the Federal and Punjab governments on education (National Education Policy Framework 2018, and Punjab Education Policy, New Deal 2019) do not pledge to curb religious discrimination and intolerance as directed by the Apex court. The policy documents should pay due regard to the fundamental rights concerning religious freedom, non-discrimination and equality, as enshrined in Articles 20, 22 & 25 of the Constitution of Pakistan.
The Chairman of Advocacy Council on Human Rights and Minorities Affairs, George Clement stated that government and civil society should join forces to draft comprehensive bill, and address challenges in establishment of commission for minority rights.
Prof. Dr. Tahir Kamran stressed the need for liberating education from the shackles of political considerations. He stated, education is the reflection of culture, civilization, and history of a society. Therefore, the curricula should build a connection with history and culture. He stated, the education standards has suffered immense loss due to state interference with the academic freedom, lack of attention on existential issues, and disconnect of education with culture.
Justice (R) Nasira Javed Iqbal stated that establishing an independent statutory Commission for Minorities’ Rights, with adequate powers and autonomy is an absolutely necessary. The govt. should introduce legislation to establish a commission in accordance with UN Paris Principles for Human Rights Institutions. Pakistan came into being with joint efforts made by minorities of sub-continent, the minorities face discrimination and hostility in Pakistan because of the state’s deviation from ideals of Quaid-e-Azam, and his vision for a spiritual democratic state, tolerant society and equality of rights.
Prof. Dr. Kalyan Singh stated the government’s progress on the court’s directions will strengthen respect of human rights and rule of law in Pakistan. He stated, minority students has to study ten religions in the subject of ethics, which is not a viable option. The government must devise and approve rule of business for effective implementation of marriage laws for Sikh and Hindu communities.
The participants deliberated upon the recommendations for establishing a statutory, autonomous and efficient commission for minorities’ rights. The civil society activists and religious communities resolved to engage for implementation of the Supreme Court orders, with Federal and Provincial governments.