The Asian Human Rights Commission states in its latest report that the minorities in Pakistan have been hoodwinked while reflecting on the Apex court’s decision to establish National council for the Rights of Minorities.
In a significant decision in the history of Pakistan by the Supreme Court – directing the government to establish the “National Council for the rights of minorities.” This council is intended to be an independent state body that will duly operate as an observatory thus monitoring the status of ethnic and religious minorities along with cases of violence and discrimination against them. The in prospect Council will be given the additional responsibility to ensure religious harmony while protecting the dignity and privileges of the religious minorities.
In pursuance to the Supreme Court verdict, the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has commenced a process to establish the National Council on Minorities’ rights. The government and the opposition have reached a consensus on the framework including the number and names of its members. The National Council will consist of 10-members with four Muslim members, and is to be announced shortly. However to the amusement of many, the government has finalized the entire process without having consulted key stakeholders being neither the representatives nor the minority groups themselves. Religious minority groups have termed such a move as undemocratic on the part of the Sharif government as well as the opposition. The religious minorities, particularly Christians and Hindus have deep reservations regarding the entire process of the formation of the National Council on the minorities. Their apprehensions are based upon similar such Commissions and councils set up on several previous occasions by several successive regimes in Pakistan.
Minority groups in Pakistan have always expressed reservations on such commissions; the likes of the Commission established by the then Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and which he chaired in 1973; yet another one was headed by Ijazul Haq (son of the former military dictator Zia ul Haq); and the one set up by the previous government of Pakistan People’s Party under joint chairmanship of Prime Minster Yousaf Raza Gillani and Federal Minister on minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti who was later assassinated by the Muslim militants.
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) warns the government of Pakistan, ”for the National Council being established not be another attempt, to continue the persecution of minority groups of religious minorities – hence such a council will neither be able to protect minorities and nor will help improve their rights situation.” The process of formation of the National Council has yet to consider holding consultations with religious minority groups such as the Hindu communities, Christians, Ahmadia Muslims groups and other such ethnic groups.
The AHRC consequently calls on the government of Pakistan to put into effect a system, for the National Council to keep an eye on the realistic recognition of the rights and preservation of the religious and other minority groups in Pakistan as exclusively provided for in the Constitution of Pakistan.