LAHORE: The National Action Plan—formulated to eradicate terrorism—has failed to curb religious extremism and hate speech, speakers at a conference organised on Friday observed.
They made the remarks while speaking at the second day of Faith-Based Violence, Illegal Occupation and Destruction of Places of Worship. The speakers said while the use of loudspeakers had been somewhat regulated, hate speech was being delivered and provocative material was being published.
Syed Muhammad Ashraf, representing the Shia community of Balochistan, said the implementation of the NAP had proven to be inconsequential. He said hate material remained in circulation and recordings of provocative anti-Shia speeches could be easily obtained. Ashraf said while the media covered some sectarian elements, no space was afforded to Shias. He said Shias could not even imagine enjoying the liberties a common Baloch took for granted.
Ashraf said Shias had been forced to shut shop altogether or close businesses before nightfall. Had the NAP been implemented in letter and spirit, he said, the situation should have taken a turn for the better for Shias of the province.
Karachi-based Hindu Mangla Sharma said minorities had not been consulted when it came to the NAP’s formulation. She said religious parties organised at least one rally per month in Karachi. She said provocative speeches were delivered at such events with impunity. Ideally, Sharma said, the NAP should have served as a check on such events.
She said attempts to expunge hate material from the curriculum had proved to be in vain. Sharma said that while Jinnah’s August 11 speech was included in the Sindh syllabus it remained devoid of chapters on individuals from minorities. She said political parties should strive to assimilate minorities by having them contest elections on general seats.
Jamaat-i-Ahmadiyya representative Amir Mehmood said the anti-Ahmadiyya campaign continued unabated. Mehmood said while district authorities had swung into action with regard to anti-Ahmadiyya paraphernalia across Hafeez Centre the move had led to every shop at the plaza sporting such material in reaction. He said the Muttahida Ulema Board (MUB)—ostensibly constituted to curb hate material—had banned books on Ahmadiyyat. He said MUB chairman Fazle Rahim Ashrafi was a regular feature at anti-Ahmadiyya conferences. Mehmood wondered how he could justify his appointment as the board’s chairman in view of this. He said that while there was a need for such a board, it should ideally be composed of impartial individuals.
Sikh representative Kalyan Singh said while the NAP was yet to be implemented in letter and spirit its introduction had made somewhat of a difference. He said the use of loudspeakers had been regularised following its formulation. Singh said no one had had the temerity to deliver an anti-Sikh speech following the introduction of the NAP in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P). He said this used to happen before.
Advocate Nadim Anthony spoke about how the law had routinely failed minorities. He said Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jilani had delivered a landmark judgement on June 19, 2014 regarding protection of minorities. Anthony said the judgement was yet to be implemented.
The conference was organised by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) in collaboration with the European Union (EU).
Published in The Express Tribune, May 21st, 2016.