Peoples Assembly Approves Draft Bill to establish Commission for Minorities’ Rights
A Peoples Assembly under the aegis of Peoples Commission for Minorities’ Rights (PCMR) and Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) discussed a draft bill for establishing a National Commission for Minorities’ Rights here in Lahore. Minority parliamentarians and members of Peoples Commission formed Working Group to solicit support for the legislation for the same.
The People Assembly of about 300 participants drawing representation from across the country and cross sections, discussed the draft bill thoroughly and approved it for vetting. The bill provides for an autonomous, independent and permanent National Commission for Minorities’ Rights. The copy of the draft bill was entrusted to the Provincial Minister for Human Rights and Minorities Affairs, Ijaz Alam Augustine for initiating in the parliament.
Minister Ijaz Alam Augustine, Senator Anwar Lal Din, MNAs Shaista Pervaiz Malik, Shunila Ruth, Jamshed Thomas, Naveed Aamir Jeeva, MPAs Tariq Gill, Haroon Imran Gill and Munir Khokhar took part in the proceedings. The event started with a musical tribute to late Asma Jahangir.
Speaking in the Peoples Assembly, I.A. Rehman, PCMR’s Patron-in-Chief underlined the fact that establishing a National Commission for Minorities’ Rights was a task long overdue. The Liaquat-Nehro Pact signed in 1950 and Action Plan for Human Rights of 2016, the Supreme Court judgment issued on 19 June 2014 (SMC No. 1 of 2014), all required this commission to be constituted therefore we urge the government to introduce the law without any further delay.
Peter Jacob, PCMR’s Chairperson reminded that the political parties had promised establishing said commission in their election manifestos 2018, therefore they should support legislation in the parliament. The proposed commission must have a broad mandate to monitor, evaluate the quality of implementation of laws and policies, protect and promote the rights of minorities as well as contribute making new laws and policy.
Saroop Ijaz advocate stated that the proposed commission must be constituted in accordance with UN Paris principles that emphasize autonomy from political influence, financial independence and legal cover, adequate powers of investigation, appointment of competent members, broad mandate based on universal human rights norms and standards.
Kalpana Devi advocate stated, the members of the proposed commission should be appointed on merit and the membership should reflect pluralism by extending it to persons representing different religious minority and majority communities in order to make it an empowered and operational body.
Saqib Jillani advocate, clarified that the role of Shoaib Suddle Implementation Commission established by Supreme Court was to address the unsatisfactory implementation of the said Judgment, therefore, the establishment of the Implementation Commission should not be confused with the purpose of the draft bill. On the contrary, it underlines the need for a permanent commission in order to help find solutions to stringent issues that minorities face.
M. Parkash Mahtani advocate, cited the example of Sindh Commission for Minorities rights which was enacted upon in 2016, though the rules of business are yet to be framed and the Commission is yet to be set up. He emphasized that delays in implementing the laws fails the very purpose that these were made for.
Bishop Alexander John Malik stated that it is time that economic, social and cultural of marginalization of minorities in Pakistan is addressed. The government, parliamentarians and civil society must work together to ensure equal and equitable rights for minorities guaranteed in the constitution of Pakistan.
Wajahat Masood, Chairperson of Centre for Social Justice stated that the direct and indirect discrimination perpetuate marginalization hence institutionalizing the equality of rights, is imperative and removing the existing barriers to enjoyment of rights an urgency. The treatment with and efforts for mainstreaming of marginalized groups will determine the character of state of Pakistan.
Justice Nasira Javed Iqbal said that the public private partnership should help foster closer relationship beyond all distinctions therefore discrimination in the name of religion has to be removed.
Dr. Kalyan Singh stated, the government must implement Jillani judgment in letter and spirit for strengthening respect of human rights and rule of law in Pakistan.
Minister Ijaz Alam Augustine said in the Peoples Assembly, that government is firmly committed to actualizing the vision of the Jinnah, with regard to protection of religious minorities and make sincere efforts to implement the orders passed by Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani in 2014. Shaista Pervaiz Malik made a pledge to fully support proposed bill for setting up minority rights commission in the legislative assembly.