ISLAMABAD: A minority representative from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa believes that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s struggle is for the rule of law and supremacy of the Constitution and when the Constitution is implemented in letter and spirit, the rights of minorities will also be protected.
“Our fight is for the supremacy of the Constitution. Minorities have the same issues that are being faced by a common man in this country,” says PTI MPA Dr Sardar Soran Singh. However, he clarifies, “Addressing minorities’ issues isn’t the agenda of this sit-in.”
Speaking with The Express Tribune, the minister, who is also the special assistant to the chief minister for minority affairs, said that minorities were not disappointed by the fact that Imran Khan’s speeches during the ‘Azadi March’ have not broached issues that minority groups face in Pakistan. “The Constitution protects the rights of everyone. It doesn’t distinguish on the basis of religion, cast, creed and colour,” he said.
People should understand PTI’s struggle as it is solely for the betterment of the masses and to end issues ranging from education, health, unemployment, women empowerment, and corruption to child labour and so on.
“Where in the Constitution does it say that people should not raise their voice against corruption, rigging, scarcity of electricity, water and poverty?” he says, referring to those who are critical of the party’s long march. “What law permits the killing of 14 innocent people by using state machinery?” The sit-in would end if the government could prove that acts like this were legal and constitutional, he said.
When asked why the crowd at the sit-in in Islamabad grew during the evening, he replied, “The leaders are only human and they need rest after staying on stage for several hours.” He added that the crowd was only there for Imran Khan and said, “God forbid, if Imran Khan falls sick, who will lead us?”
When asked about a large number of Sikh supporters from Swat and Buner who reportedly expressed disappointment over the party leadership’s apathy and left the sit-in venue, Dr Singh responded, “I have been here since the very first day. You can check my hotel bills and see that I haven’t left the rally for even a day. But we can’t force anyone to stay and those who have left must have some important things to do.”
“We wish to make institutions so strong that they no longer depend on persons or personalities,” said Dr Singh when asked who was in charge during his absence from K-P. “Institutions should keep functioning even if the people here are replaced,” he concluded.
With regards to allegations of rigging in the 2013 polls, Dr Singh said that had there been no rigging, there would be more minority seats in the assemblies.
Defending the PTI’s demand for the PM’s resignation, he said that if Nawaz Sharif were to step down for 30 days, it would ensure the fairness and impartiality of the investigation process. The PM’s temporary resignation would be a superficial change, however, as ‘the PML-N government will be in a position to influence the investigation’, Dr Singh said. “You know why the PM is not ready to resign,” he says, “Because they rigged the elections.”
“We will announce re-elections in K-P if any party stages a sit-in and proves rigging in the province,” he added.
Elaborating on PTI’s performance in K-P, he said the quota for minorities in government jobs was only 0.5 percent during the tenures of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal and Awami National Party, equal to one out of every 200 posts. He said PTI has increased the quota to three percent after coming into power in the province. A separate quota has been allocated for female minority students in engineering and medical colleges and scholarships totaling Rs1.6 million have also been approved for them, he added.
Additionally, special packages worth Rs2.5 million were announced and the cash amount was handed over to widows belonging to Sikh, Hindu, Christians, Kalash and others minority communities before their annual religious festivals. He added that the PTI government has allocated Rs2.5 million for the construction of Shamshan Ghat in Buner.
After spending 14 months in power, Singh was unable to state the number of worship places of minorities falling in the province. He said district coordination officers were responsible for gathering this information but have yet to do so. He also promised that the issue of domiciles for internally displaced persons from the Sikh community from Khyber and Kurram agencies, still pending after two years, would be discussed with the K-P governor soon.
The federal government is producing electricity at the cost of Rs18 per unit from the Nandipur power project but is not ready to build dams in K-P, even though they would reduce the cost of production to Rs2 per unit, Dr Singh claimed. “They are not building dams because that will end their commission. I assure you that there will be no commission in the ‘new Pakistan’,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 27th, 2014.
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