LAHORE: “We need to promote a collective approach for tackling the problems faced by religious minorities. People should believe that the challenges faced by the minorities are also faced by the majority,” said IA Rehman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) on Wednesday.
He was addressing a panel discussion on Religious Freedoms and Minority Rights which was organised by South Asia Partnership-Pakistan (SAP-PK). As many as 16 members of the Punjab Assembly attended the discussion.
Rehman said it was unfortunate that religious minorities were discriminated against in education and employment.
“Overall, there is also uncertainty and fear due to the absence of rule of law. Worship places of minorities are not protected and the role of state has been disappointing,” he said. He said political parties often acted against their manifestos in tackling the issue of discrimination. He said four bills related to religious minorities were pending in the National Assembly. “The Christian Divorce Act is very old and we do not have codified Hindu family laws at all,” he said. “Even the graveyards of minorities have been desecrated,” he said. He stressed on the need for affirmative action through institutional reforms.
Punjab Assembly members Ramesh Sing Arora, Kanji Ram and Mary Gill called for reforms in the education and curriculum development to raise awareness about the role of minorities in the Pakistan movement. They said cremation spots for Hindus should be constructed, hate material from books removed and worship places protected. They also demanded the establishment of a minority rights commission as an independent body which could help resolve problems of minorities.
Earlier, SAP-PK national coordinator Hameed Gondal said the SAP-PK had been advocating protection and promotion of minorities’ rights and campaigned on how national and international guarantees protected religious freedoms and other fundamental rights.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 29th, 2014.
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