LAHORE: Punjab Chief Secretary Akbar Durrani has said the Constitution of Pakistan has guaranteed equal rights and protection to all minorities. Practical steps are being taken for the protection of the rights of minorities in the province, he added.
He expressed these views during a meeting with a five-member delegation of the National Lobby for Minority Rights at the Civil Secretariat on Friday. Issues related to family laws and the job quota for minorities were also discussed in the meeting.
The chief secretary said Islam emphasises on the protection of minority rights. “Forbearance, mutual respect and equal protection of human rights are the hallmark of an Islamic society,” he added.
He directed Human Rights and Minority Affairs Secretary Asim Iqbal to finalise rules of business for the Hindu Marriage Act and Sikh Marriage Act at the earliest. He mentioned that equal opportunities were provided to minorities to bring them into the mainstream. He said all minorities living in Pakistan enjoying complete religious and social freedom and a job quota was being implemented strictly. He said it is also a priority of the government to take care of all religious sites.
He remarked that it is praiseworthy that minorities are playing a vital role in the progress and prosperity of the country. The delegates, including Asif Aqeel, Khalid Shahzad, Prof Kalyan Singh, Sumaira Shafiq and Aira Indaras, lauded the steps taken by Punjab government and thanked the chief secretary. Secretary Home Capt (retd) Nasim Nawaz and Secretary Regulations Saleh Tahir were also present on the occasion.
Meanwhile, a convention to commemorate National Minorities’ Day was held at a private hotel in Lahore. A large number of representatives of different organisations, the political parties participated in the convention. It was organised by Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) in collaboration with National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) and Cecil and Iris Chaudhry Foundation (CICF).
The speakers and the participants of the convention deeply appreciated the designation of August 11 as National Minorities’ Day by the government of Pakistan. This measure symbolises the vision of Quaid-i-Azam presented in his inaugural address to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan in 1947.
Recalling the aspiration of multi-religious coexistence reflected in the national flag and the promises made in Lahore Resolution of 1940 that spells out the need for adequate, effective and mandatory safeguards for the protection of rights and interest of minorities. They emphasised the need for inclusion of minorities in the national mainstream in all tiers of governance and decision making.
Acknowledging that the fundamental rights enunciated in the Constitution and affirmative measures introduced by the federal and the provincial governments to protect rights of religious minorities, they called the attention of all the stakeholders to the human rights challenges at hand.
The participants of the convention pledged to work with political stakeholders in enhancing respect for human rights and promoting peaceful coexistence.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 11th, 2018.