Former federal minister Dr. Paul Bhatti has said that he wishes to see the recreation of the Ministry of Minorities.
The Christian politician was of the view that Christians should have a platform at the federal level.
Talking to Express Tribune, brother of the martyred fedral minister, Shahbaz Bhatii said “The Ministry of Minorities Affairs was devolved under the 18th Amendment. However, on our demand, former president Asif Ali Zardari created the Ministry of National Harmony to give minorities a voice at the Centre. Right now, there is no such platform and the issues of minority communities cannot reach the power corridors. I am going to write to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, urging him to reestablish the ministry.”
“The Ministry of National Harmony was able to generate a dialogue between representatives of various minorities in Pakistan. We also took on board Muslim religious scholars to promote interfaith harmony. It was running on a very modest budget.
However, the current government merged it with the Ministry of Religious Affairs.
Recreating the ministry will not only give the minorities a platform at the Centre, but also improve the country’s image abroad,” he said.
Dr Paul Bhatti, who is also the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance chairman, said that they would demand that the bar on non-Muslims to become president or prime minister be removed. “This will provide minorities in Pakistan a feeling that if they work hard they can go to the top. They will no longer feel alienated,” he said.
“During the PPP government, prayer halls were set up for minorities in all prisons.
A church was established in Adiyala Jail,” he said. He said that the Punjab government needed to do more to protect minorities. “If you look at incidents of violence against minorities, be it the Gojra incident or the burning of houses in Joseph Colony, most of them occurred in the Punjab.
The provincial government should take effective steps to protect members of minority communities,” he said.
The Ministry of Minorities used to be a federal-level ministry in the Government of Pakistan. The head of the ministry was known as the Minister for Minorities and was a member of the federal cabinet.
Until September 2004, the functions of this ministry were carried out by the Minorities Wing of the former Ministry of Minorities, Culture, Sports, Tourism and Youth Affairs – but it remained underfunded for some time. This changed when it was upgraded to a fully-fledged, independent Ministry of Minorities, founded under President Musharraf.
In November 2008, the government (then led by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP)) invested in a larger ministry and renamed it the Ministry of Minorities Affairs. The role of minister was awarded to a Christian activist, Shahbaz Bhatti, who served in this position until March 2, 2011, when he was assassinated in Islamabad.
In July 2011, the Government of Pakistan closed the Minorities Affairs Ministry as part of a decentralization plan that would see powers in this area transferred to the provinces. However, a new ministry was created with almost the same remit but under a different name, the Ministry for National Harmony. Shahbaz Bhatti’s brother, Paul Bhatti, was appointed to lead it, as a “Special Advisor” to the Prime Minister.
In June 2013, under a newly elected government led by the Pakistan Muslim League (N), the Ministry of National Harmony was merged with a larger ministry, the Ministry of Religious Affairs.