The participants in a convention on Thursday called upon the federal and provincial governments to take measures to include Quaid-i-Azam’s Aug 11 speech in the Constitution to accord it a statutory status.
They said a law should be passed for prosecution and punishment for acts of discrimination, particularly on the basis of religion and belief, to give effect to the freedoms and equality guaranteed in articles 20 and 25 of the Constitution. The provisions in the constitution that are incompatible with fundamental rights should be amended to remove the conceptual inconsistencies about equality of rights.
Those who participated in the seminar included Farooq Sattar of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, Qamar Zaman Kaira of PPP, Asiya Nasir of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam, Peter Jacob of Centre for Social Justice, Shunila Ruth of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, Tariq Gill of Ministry for Human Rights and Minorities Affairs, retired Justice Nasira Javed Iqbal and journalist Imtiaz Alam.
They appreciated the designation of Aug 11 as the National Minorities’ Day by the government, saying the move symbolised the vision of Quaid-i-Azam presented in his inaugural address to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan in 1947.
The participants in the convention demanded that the judgment of the Supreme Court of Pakistan delivered on June 19, 2014 should be implemented in letter and spirit.
Following are their other demands. A policy, strategy and plan of action to promote religious and social tolerance, must be introduced. The education policy and textbooks for educational institutions must be reviewed to remove discriminations based on religion and to make formal education an instrument of promoting diversity and social harmony.
A regulatory body must be instituted through enactment for proper implementation of job quota reserved for religious minorities. This authority should be equipped with required powers, resources and procedures for a referral and redress mechanism against any grievances. An autonomous and independent statutory National Council for Minorities must be constituted with a mandate to monitor the implementation of rights of minorities, to oversee policies and give advice on policy matters.
Recalling the aspiration of multi-religious coexistence reflected in the national flag and promised in the Lahore Resolution in 1940 that spelled out the need for ‘adequate, effective and mandatory safeguards for protection of rights and interest of minorities,’ they stressed the inclusion of the minorities in the national mainstream in all tiers of governance and decision making.
Appreciating the initiative taken by the coalition government of PPP in 2009, to observe National Minorities Day, carried forward by PML-N and supported by political parties such as Awami National Party, Muttahida Qaumi Movement, PML-Q, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, the participants in the convention pledged to work with the political stakeholders for protection of human rights and peaceful coexistence.