KARACHI: In the third of a seven-part series, The Express Tribune looks at the promises political parties made to minorities in their manifestos.
PPP: Minorities will be given administrative control of their places of worship and a person belonging to a minority group will be made head of the Evacuee Trust Property Board.
STATUS: Control is retained by the Evacuee Trust Property Board, which is headed by the PPP’s Syed Asif Hashmi. According to the ministry, an independent commission which will deal with the sale, transfer and issuance of no-objection certificates for Christian properties, has been constituted on PM Gilani’s orders.
PPP: An independent permanent National Commission for Religious Minorities will be instituted, with the powers of tribunals which can entertain complaints and provide redress on urgent basis.
PML-N: A commission shall be set up to look into complaints of religious discrimination.
STATUS: The National Commission for Minorities is headed by the Federal Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti. No independent commission for complaints has been set up.
PPP: To uplift and empower minorities, a job quota for minorities in the services of Pakistan, including the operational services like army, police, intelligence agencies, judiciary and foreign affairs will be allocated.
MQM: To provide representation to minorities at least five per cent reserve seats be year marked for them in legislative bodies.
STATUS: The government allocated a quota of five per cent of all federal jobs for minorities in 2009, which was also implemented by the Punjab and Sindh governments.
EQUALITY AND SECURITY
MQM: Religion should not obstruct the exercise of the inherent right of a citizen of Pakistan to participate in any matter; socio-economic and/or political. The religious minorities would be treated as equal citizens of Pakistan and be given state protection for their lives, property and freedom to practice their religion freely.
PML-N: Minorities shall be integrated in the mainstream of national development through active participation at different levels.
ANP: No discrimination of any kind based on race, creed or gender. Every citizen of Pakistan shall have equal rights in the political, economic and social fields. The essence of security will be guaranteed among the religious and ethnic minorities.
JUI-F: Minorities will be entitled to the religious freedom, citizens’ rights and right to justice that have been prescribed by Islam.
STATUS: In the past three years, minorities have faced the brunt of targeted attacks and discrimination. Key incidents include the Gojra riots targeting Christians (July 2009), attacks on Ahmedi places of worship (May 2010), discrimination in providing flood relief to Ahmedis (August 2010), kidnappings of Hindus in Balochistan (December 2010) and threats against the Sikh community in Orakzai Agency (2008).
PPP: The statutes that discriminate against religious minorities, and are sources of communal disharmony, will be reviewed.
MQM: All discriminatory laws against women and religious minorities would be repealed.
ANP: Every citizen shall have the right to hold any public office and all discriminatory laws shall be repealed.
STATUS: While human rights activists say the laws about Ahmedis and blasphemy offences are discriminatory, political parties have not moved to amend them. The Council of Islamic Ideology reviewed and suggested amendments in the blasphemy laws. A private member bill proposing amendments in the laws was submitted in the National Assembly by MNA Sherry Rehman and disavowed by the PPP, while the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa provincial assembly passed a resolution asking the federal government to not amend or repeal the blasphemy laws.
Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer was assassinated on January 4 by Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, an Elite Force guard. Qadri said he killed Taseer for his opposition to the blasphemy law.
Religious-political parties have actively campaigned to prevent any amendment in the blasphemy laws. Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has repeatedly declared that the government will not amend the laws.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 23rd, 2011.
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