Religious minorities demanded establishment of a Punjab Minorities’ Rights Commission. For this sake, a press conference was held in Lahore on December 8, Thursday. This press conference was held jointly by various leaders hailing from the religious minorities. This press conference was held under the banner of the Rwadari Tehreek, and was attended by the Civil Society and prominent leaders.
Rwadari Tehreek and other attendees earnestly called upon the Punjab Government to entertain a private bill seeking establishment of Punjab Minorities’ Rights Commission which was moved by Mr. Shehzad Munshi MPA on 23 November 2016. The Press Conference was presided by Chairman Rwadari Tehreek Samson Salamat. The speakers included Shehzad Munshi MPA, Samuel Pyara (President Bright Future Society), Tariq Siraj Advocate (Chairman Mutehida Masihi Party), Pervaiz Masih (President United Christian Federation- Canada), Sadia Sohail MPA (PTI), Shunila Ruth MPA (PTI) Kanji Ram MPA, Shakeel Markus MPA, Pastor Emmanuel Khokhar (Senior Pastor of Church of Pakistan), Rev. Father Francis Gulzar (Vicar General Catholic Diocese of Lahore), Rizwan Gill Advocate (President Rwadari Tehreek Lahore), Naseer Ahmed (PPP Human Rights Wing).
Chairman Rwadari Tehreek Samson Salamat appreciated the bill moved by MPA Shehzad Munshi saying: “there has been sever incidents of violence and discrimination against religious minorities in Punjab since 1980s, therefore the establishment of Minorities Commission was a longtime demand of the minorities communities and the civil society.”
“As per the directions of the Supreme Court Judgment regarding Minorities of 2014, the provincial law-making bodies are bound to establish Minorities Rights Commission and since Sindh Assembly has already passed the similar bill, therefore there is no reason to keep this important move on a hold. Therefore we appeal to all the members of Punjab Assembly to support and pass this bill without any delay for steps to safeguard religious minorities’ rights and end discrimination against them,” he added.
Delineating the bill MPA Shehzad Munshi stated: “The preamble of the draft of the bill says that it is aimed at establishing a commission to provide a platform to look into various grievances of the communities of religious minorities and to monitor and suggest a mechanism for accelerating the pace of the socio-economic development of these communities.”
An excerpt from Rwadari Tehreek’s press release says: “The establishment of the Punjab Minorities’ Rights Commission would reiterate the values of religious harmony, tolerance, respect, and peace being the inherent part of the process of the creation of Pakistan.
Functions of the proposed commission would include examining policy, programmes and other measures to be taken by the government on issues relating to equality of minorities, their empowerment, protection, political participation, representation and education.
The commission would also review all laws, rules and regulations affecting the status and rights of minorities, and would suggest repeal, amendment or new legislation essential to eliminate discrimination, safeguarding and promoting the interest and welfare of minorities and achieving equality before law in accordance with the constitution and obligations under international covenants and commitments.
The commission would develop and maintain interaction and dialogue with non-governmental organizations, experts and individuals in society and also maintain an active association with similar commissions and institutions in other countries for collaboration and action to achieve equality of minorities at all levels.”