LAHORE: There should be a platform at the federal level for the representation of minorities, said former federal minister Dr Paul Bhatti on Monday.
Taking to The Express Tribune, Dr Bhatti, a brother of slain federal minister Shahbaz Bhatti, said that during the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government, the Ministry of National Harmony had provided minorities better representation.
“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,” he said.
“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.
He said that the fifth death anniversary of Shahbaz Bhatti would be marked with a special ceremony in Islamabad. “This year is important because a Vatican committee is working on the Shahbaz Bhatti case. The Vatican gives the status of martyrdom after five years. Before doing so, they gather evidence and carry out an investigation of their own,” 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.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 24th, 2016.