Speakers at a conference rejected the quota system and reserved seats for minorities in assemblies, asking for representatives that they could vote for in the general elections instead.
A day-long conference, organised by Enhanced Democratic Accountability and Citizens Engagement (EDACE) in collaboration with the British High Commission, was held at Marriott on Tuesday to highlight and resolve the issues of minorities of Sindh. It comprised of four detailed sessions, followed by panel discussions.
Covering the minority perspective, the conference was attended by representatives of the Sikh, Christian, Hindu, Parsi and Baha'i communities. The event started with prayers from the different faiths, displaying respect for all religions.
The issue raised again and again by many of the participants was the quota system. "We don't accept the 'selection system' for minority seats," said a participant angrily. Another participant seconded this, asking for an end to the quota system.
EDACE programme coordinator Bismah Adam discussed the legal rights of minorities in Pakistan, while EDACE team leader Zahid Elahi emphasised the need for youth to participate in promoting minorities in society.
In a session on educational reforms, speaker Qudoos Frooghi from the Baha'i community talked about the need to instill ethical and moral values among children.
"Since independence, we have been demanding a different curriculum for minorities," said a participant from rural Sindh. "We are not allowed to give our children religious education about their own faith." Meanwhile, panelist Houth Chand said that hate material in the educational curriculum had to be addressed rather than merely removed.
Meanwhile, speaker Michael Jawed discussed topics such as the sensitivity of religious places, kidnappings and forced conversions, graveyards for the minorities and equality in the assemblies.
"The problem of forced conversions is at an all-time high, due to poverty and a lack of education," said Homo Gaddayli, who was representing the Parsi community.
The conference concluded with a discussion about the legal and judicial framework by Advocate Kalpna Devi, who pressed the issue of reforming the blasphemy laws.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 1st, 2014.
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