ISLAMABAD: Representation of minorities in the Parliament has been a topic of debate for quite some time and was discussed in the National Assembly session on Saturday.
The issue was raised by Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) MNA Asiya Nasir, who questioned the constitutional provision that puts a bar on minorities from holding the office of prime minister as well as that of the president.
“Article 25 of the Constitution says all men and women are equal but at the same time non-Muslims cannot hold the office of prime minister as well as that of the president … this is not acceptable to us,” remarked the JUI-F MNA.
Addressing the National Assembly during the budget debate with empty treasury and opposition benches, Nasir said that she was the first minority member who was given the opportunity to speak on the budget but she was not interested as the government had presented a ‘traditional budget’.
She also stated that the budget was similar to previous budgets and did not have anything meaningful for minorities.
“Discrimination against minorities has no end and incidents of violence are on the rise. We have drifted away from Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s Pakistan,” she added.
The JUI-F MNA also pointed out that the 18th constitutional amendment had devolved their ministry to a provincial level due to which there was no uniform policy; all four provinces have different policies regarding minorities. She suggested that the government should have a ministry for the minorities at the Centre.
The JUI-F member also referred to another constitutional provision, Article 22 and said that non-Muslim students were being taught subjects against their will and the school curriculum had hate material against minorities included in it.
Commenting on laws related to blasphemy, Nasir remarked that “Christians are being targeted”.
“Number of blasphemy cases against Christians was increasing every day but not a single person, who had misused the laws [against minorities], had ever been punished,” she added.
Earlier, Dr Nafisa Shah from the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) urged the government to increase the share of provinces who were fighting against terrorism by one percent. “The war has shifted from FATA to other parts of the country,” she stated.
“Quetta, Karachi and Peshawar are going to be the next Waziristan but the government has not allocated anything for internal security. Perhaps this is the reason that Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan was unhappy with his own government,” she added.
“It is difficult for the government to collect tax but easy for terrorists to collect extortion,” she lamented.
She said that the government did not have a National Security Policy and was confused whether or not to carry out an operation against the terrorists despite the fact that peace talks had virtually ended.
While talking about the budget, she said that it was nothing but dictates of International Monetary Fund (IMF) which has asked the government to reduce budget deficit, increase taxes and forex reserves, and to spend money on the poor through the Benazir Income Support Program (BISP).
Shah also criticized the government for collecting Rs140 billion for Gas Infrastructure Development Cess (GIDC) rather than giving it to the provinces: “Depriving provinces of their rights is a violation of the constitution as we do not even know that this money will go to Pak-Iran gas pipeline,” she claimed.
Naveed Gabol from the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) was another member from the opposition who censured the government. Referring to the budget documents as “big books”, he said: “I have never read such big books despite the fact I have witnessed the presentation of as much as 25 budgets.”
It was business as usual with opposition members criticizing the government and a handful of treasury members eulogizing their government’s achievements and praising their leader Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif after every second sentence.