ISLAMABAD: On National Minorities Day in Pakistan, parliamentarians have vowed to fight for the rights of persecuted minority communities, and in particular, work towards stopping forced conversion of Hindus and misuse of blasphemy laws against non-Muslims.
August 11 is celebrated as National Minorities Day in Pakistan, prompting the National Assembly on Tuesday (today) to pay homage to minority communities in the country.
A resolution marking the national day, moved by Minister for Ports and Shipping Kamran, was passed unanimously.
“We pay tribute to the patriotic minority members who sacrificed their lives in war against terror — also for their services in different fields particularly education and health,” read the resolution.
The resolution came in the wake of a motion about minorities moved by Member of National Assembly (MNA) Munnaza Hassan of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).
Leader of the Opposition Syed Khurshid Shah while speaking on the motion, said, “It is a testing time for non-Muslims and other minorities whose persecution could not be stopped, unfortunately, by the rulers.”
He further said that the Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) government in its tenure took a number of steps for the welfare of minorities but they were not enough. “We should go extra mile to protect them (non-Muslims],” he added.
NA divided over construction of dams
In another development, the National Assembly witnessed divided opinion over a key issue of construction of dams, particularly Kalabagh Dam, where lawmakers failed to build consensus on it.
Lawmakers across party lines called for the expedited construction of dams. MNA Muzammil Qureshi presented a resolution before lawmakers, urging the government to take immediate steps for construction of new water reservoirs in order to control the shortage of water.
Debate triggered a month after monsoon flooding displaced over 1.5 million people, destroying over million acres crops this year. Since the flash floods started ravaging various parts of the country in mid-July, over 200 people have been killed and 128 injured so far.
“A war of water has been triggered now. We will have to pave way for Bhasha Dam and only by building it quickly, will we be able to mitigate water woes,” observed PPP-Sherpao MNA Aftab Sherpao.
PTI MNA Amjad Khan called for an all parties’ conference to take up the issue, while Awami Muslim League MNA Sheikh Rashid called for building small dams in an attempt to overcome the water crisis.
The construction of the Kalabagh Dam, however, was strongly opposed by Mahmood Achakzai of the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party, who said that the Swat River could meet the electricity demands of the whole country.
Further, it was said during the session that Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa could generate enough electricity with Sindh not lagging far behind. Similarly, PPP MNA Yousuf Talpur also opposed the idea of the Kalabagh Dam, suggesting instead that canals, small dams and water storage units be constructed.
“There is a need for construction of small dams to conserve water and prevent the wastage of flood water,” he observed.
Meanwhile, MNA Rashid Godail of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement said that dams should be built for agricultural purposes.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) MNA Owais Leghari said small dams with the capacity to water thousands of acres of crops could be built if an efficient strategy was implemented.
“River Indus is a disaster for us. People from Mianwali, Bhakar, Layyah and Dera Ghazi Khan are victims of floods,” PML-N MNA Obaidullah Shadi Khail said, referring to the failure of political governments in constructing the Kalabagh Dam.
Although Pakistan PTI chief Imran Khan was not present in Tuesday’ proceedings, PTI MNA Arif Alvi said the environmental crisis must be taken into consideration.
“Water resource management must take up this issue as water security seems to be a bigger threat now,” he said.
Minister for Water and Power Khawaja Asif said that water was an extremely important subject and required detailed discussion.
Women’s parliamentarians’ funds
State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Sheikh Aftab informed lawmakers that the government had allocated Rs20 billion for community development schemes to be implemented through DCOs to achieve Millennium Development Goals in different fields.
“We had allocated 12.5 billion rupees last year as well, he responded to a calling notice moved by MNA Shahida Rehmani pertaining to discrimination in the allocation of development funds to the women parliamentarians,” Aftab said.
MNA Ramesh Kumar introduced a bill “The Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2015” which was referred to the Standing Committee on Law and Justice for further deliberation. MNA Nafeesa Inayatullah presented “The Right to Free and Compulsory Education (Amendment) Bill, 2015”.
It was also referred to the committee concerned for deliberations.