“As we call for new laws, it is important to implement and enforce existing administrative policies on the rights of minorities guaranteed in the Constitution,” Tanveer Jahan, a member of the National Commission on Status of Women, said on Tuesday.
She was talking at a panel discussion. The participants included Bishop Munawwar Shah, MPAs Shamila Aslam and Shunila Ruth.
The discussion was organised by the South Asia Partnership-Pakistan on Tuesday.
Jahan said the Constitution lacked a proper framework for the protection of minorities. She said the 18th Amendment had provided more autonomy to provinces but did not mention representation of minorities.
Bishop Munawwar Rumal Shah said Christians merely wanted rights they were entitled to as human beings.
Commenting on the issue of political representation of minorities, Samson Salamat, director of the Center for Human Rights Education, said people elected on reserved seats for religious minorities were frequently not true representative of religious minorities.
He said political parties should award tickets to members of religious minorities to the contest elections on general seats.
Several participants stressed the need for laws prohibiting forced conversions.
They said use of loud speakers at mosques and imam bargahs should be banned except for the call for prayers.
They said educational reforms should be introduced to change the curriculum to promote religious tolerance.
They said the media had an important role to play in promoting religious harmony and protection of rights of religious minorities.
Some of panellists said literacy rate among minorities was falling. They said nationalisation of Christian schools in 1970s was one of the reasons for the poor literacy rate.
Other speakers demanded a census of the religious minorities. They said the statistics regarding the minorities’ population were outdated.
The participants also voiced concern about the blasphemy laws which they said were often used unfairly against religious minorities.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 25th, 2013.