KARACHI: All eyes and hopes of the minorities' representatives and activists are pinned on the upcoming session of the Sindh Assembly where a long-awaited demand of theirs is likely to be met.
After months of consultations and discussions, the bill for the establishment of the Sindh Minorities Rights Commission will be presented in the assembly. Minority communities hope the parliamentarians will pass it.
"It will be presented by MPA Nand Kumar," revealed Shahnaz Sheedi of the South Asia Partnership-Pakistan (SAP-PK). She was speaking at a consultative meeting regarding the commission held at the Regent Plaza on Friday.
Activists from various religious communities stressed the need for the formation of the commission as well as delved upon the problems faced by minorities in the country. The only lawmaker present at the meeting was Naheed Begum from the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) who assured her party will support the bill when it is presented in the assembly.
She said it was her party's policy to protect the rights of all minorities. Hailing from Sukkur, the MPA said she had lived her life in her hometown as well as Ghotki, where she saw a number of girls being forcibly converted and married off. She expressed hope that the commission will take up these issues.
Saleem Michael, a Christian representative, said that the formation of the commission was important. "We don't have representatives in the assembly; they only follow the party guidelines." He said other bills such as teaching Geeta to Hindu kids and Bible to Christians as well as the Christian Marriage Act were being worked on.
From the Hindu community, Dr Jaipal Chhabria demanded that all members of the commission be non-Muslims. "In India, not a single Hindu is a member of the minority commission. Here, we have a minorities' commission on the national level which is headed by a Muslim."
The Hindu leader pointed out that not a single community hall has been established and even the Hindu Gymkhana has been taken away from them. "Thankfully, they didn't change the name because a Muslim Gymkhana already existed." He said that text books should feature Christians and Hindus' achievements, both pre- and post-partition. Sardar Ramesh Singh of the Pakistan Sikh Council demanded that the National Accountability Bureau should investigate the budget being allocated to the minorities department. "Where is it going, why is not being utilised?" he questioned.
He said that eight to nine Sikhs have been killed in Peshawar in the last few years and his community is moving to Punjab and other areas.
Sindh Minority Rights Commission Act 2015
According to the draft, the commission aims to provide a platform to look into the grievances of minority communities and suggest mechanisms for their socio-economic development as well as safeguard their interests at the provincial level.
The formation of the commission will be a driving force in negating the propaganda of human rights violations of minorities in Sindh. It will be formed by the Sindh government and will be headed by a chairperson, who will be non-Muslim. Eleven members would be nominated who have expertise in the field of human rights and minorities, out of which six will be from minority communities.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 31st, 2015.
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