06/20/2019, 14.53
PAKISTAN
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Justice and peace: the rights of minorities betrayed

by Shafique Khokhar

Activists, Catholics and lawyers complain about the failure to enforce a Supreme Court ruling that was supposed to lay the foundations for everyone’s right to profess their religion in freedom.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) – The rights of minorities are systematically betrayed, this according to a group of intellectuals, Catholics, activists, lawyers and politicians who met yesterday in Islamabad to mark the fifth anniversary of the famous Supreme Court ruling on the rights of religious minorities of 19 June 2014.

At the time, Pakistan’s highest court ordered the federal and provincial governments to take steps in favour of minorities, such as better security for places of worship, adopting a strategy to improve religious and social tolerance, establishing a national commission for minorities, ensuring job quotas, and reforming the school curriculum. Five years later, minorities are still complaining that nothing has been done to put the ruling into practice.

The conference was organised by various groups, including the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), the National Justice and Peace Commission (NCJP), and the Cecil and Iris Chaudhry Foundation.

According to HRCP director I. A. Rehman, the ruling suffers from “neglect in implementation”. But the judgment itself “lays down the foundation for the protection and promotion of religious freedom in general, and the protection of minorities’ rights in particular.”

For Peter Jacob, executive director of Justice and Peace, respect for the ruling is weak and sporadic at best “with overall compliance levels marked at no more than 24 per cent”.

In his view, “The lack of will amongst decision-makers and implementers are the major challenges in public policy” as are the “attitudes blocking the progress towards realisation of rights of marginalised groups, and compliance of the court orders.”

Speaking on the matter, Archbishop Joseph Arshad said that the government needs to fulfil the pledge made by Muhammad Ali Jinnah to ensure equality of rights for all citizens of Pakistan by implementing Court orders.

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