Experts deplore discrimination against minorities

Call for ensuring religious freedoms of all groups, reforming constitution

Fariha Saqib April 16, 2016

ISLAMABAD: The Islamisation of the constitution has rendered it discriminatory and in dire need of revision, panellists of a session at the Islamabad Literature Festival said here on Saturday.

They were speaking at the session “Qualified Equality: Minorities in the Constitution of Pakistan” on the second day of the festival.

Zain Mansoor, barrister at the Society of Lincoln’s Inn UK, provided an insight into the framework of the constitution, highlighting the shortcomings of the law regarding the religious minorities. He said inclusion of religious provisions in the constitution during the Zia era changed its very nature.

He said the Objectives Resolution, which is part of the constitution, was drafted without consulting religious minorities in the country. He also said that though the constitution failed to deliver the rights to minorities, the judiciary had been “quite liberal and staunch in its support to minorities”. He, however, added that Ahmedis had been an exception as neither the constitution nor the judiciary protected their rights.

Constitutional law expert and columnist Babar Sattar disagreed with Mansoor on his assertion that the judiciary supported the minorities, saying that the judgments from the bench depended on who was sitting on the bench. He said that traditionally the judiciary had always sided with power.

About the constitution, he said that it offered contradictory stances on the right to religion, by simultaneously providing the freedom of religion to all, yet limiting the religious freedoms of Ahmedis. “Our constitution is inherently discriminatory,” he said.

Shaqaib Lilla, an advocate and lecturer of constitutional law and human rights, spoke about the state’s constitutional responsibilities, saying that it continually failed to implement the constitution.

He said, “We’ve been hearing since childhood that everyone is equal, but I have never seen the practical manifestation of it.”

Published in The Express Tribune, April 17th, 2016.


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