Justice and Peace Commission asks the new government to set up a Ministry for Minorities
by Kamran Chaudhry

The organisation of the Bishops’ Conference offers its best wishes to the government of Imran Khan. For Bishop Joseph Arshad, "Pakistan belongs to minorities as much as to the majority". Many are concerned about price increases and ads targeting Christians deemed as capable only to work as waste collectors.

Lahore (AsiaNews) – The National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Pakistan has called on the new government of Imran Khan to crate an Ministry for Minorities. In a statement released yesterday, the bishops also extended their best wishes to Mr Khan, who won the parliamentary lections in July.

The statement was signed by NCJP president Mgr Joseph Arshad, national director Fr Emmanuel Yousaf, and executive director Cecil Chaudhry. In it, NCJP’s top officials ask the government to "promote freedom of thought, eliminate corruption and curb religious discrimination in Pakistan".

The Commission expressed its appreciation for the successful democratic transition and noted that the creation of the Ministry for Minorities could be done at both provincial and federal levels so as to guarantee maximum political representation for minorities.

"The first responsibility of the government is to protect minorities,” Mgr Arshad said. In his view, “Pakistan belongs to minorities as much as to the majority.” At the same time, “We will collaborate with the newly elected government in every way, for progress and peace." But for Fr Yousaf, the government "must strengthen democratic institutions, promote the rule of law, and pay particular attention to health, education and social welfare”.

The NCJP statement goes further however, highlighting growing concerns among liberal activists and minority leaders. In fact, many have expressed reservations about price increase, the absence of minority representation in the new government and ads aimed at Christian waste collectors.

Farooq Tariq, general secretary of the AWAMI Workers Party, told AsiaNews that the government of Imran Khan "pursues neo-liberal policies and privatisation. Austerity measures and the slogans that appeal to simplicity seem misleading, given that its policies are against the poor. Power outages are increasing. Taxes have increased, the cost of domestic gas has increased by 46 per cent."

On the issue of ads specifically aimed at Christians, "Christians have been deprived of their basic human rights. Our heart is broken when we read that the only job for Christians is to sweep [the streets]. Muslims too are hired as waste collectors, but then they do not perform their duties,” said Professor Anjum James Paul, chairman of Pakistan Minorities Teachers' Association.

For Tariq, "There is no hope that the new government will send a positive signal to the working class and to minorities. This is a conservative right-wing government that has gained power thanks to the help of industrialists and the army. It will do nothing to upset religious fanatics because Imran Khan does not want to lose their support. The current government does not consider minorities as equal citizens."