08/12/2017, 17.33
PAKISTAN
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Lahore, ethnic and religious minorities ask for an end to discrimination

by Shafique Khokhar

It is necessary to ensure effective political participation and representation of religious minorities. An appeal is issued on National Minorities Day. Tehreek Rwadari makes some proposals.

Lahore (AsiaNews) – Rwadari Tehreek (RT) on Wednesday, National Minorities Day, issued an appeal in favour of pluralism and harmony to counter the prevalent culture of intolerance, extremism and violence.

RT wants the federal and provincial governments and all other stakeholders to meet the challenge and protect the rights and freedoms of Pakistani minorities.

In a statement, RT chairman Samson Salamat expressed great concern over the dangerous rise in discrimination and violence against religious minorities and their faith.

"Pakistani citizens who belong to minority communities are forced to accept jobs in which they are highly discriminated” like garbage collection, domestic work, construction, “but so far nothing has been done to put an end to this," the statement said.

The issue requires a political solution, but the corridors of power lack genuine representation from religious minorities because of their ineffective presence at all levels of Pakistan’s democratic system.

On Minority Day, RT released a sort of "Charter" with various proposals.

First of all, the speech of 11 August 1947 by Pakistan's founder Ali Jinnah to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan should be included in the Preamble of the Constitution of Pakistan as well as in the statutes of all institutions and schools.

Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, during his first speech at the constituent assembly, said: "We are all citizens and equal citizens of one state…. Now I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal, and you will find that in course of time Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State."

Second. A package of constitutional reforms should be developed in consultation with religious minorities and civil society in order to put an end to discrimination and bias, ensuring effective political participation and representation to religious minorities.

Third. An Independent Minorities Commission should be established at the federal and provincial levels through an act of Parliament and should have the powers of a tribunal in case of violations of minority rights.

Fourth. Mechanisms should be put in place for the effective implementation of the Supreme Court Judgement of 2014 on the Protection of Minorities.

Fifth. Laws that lend themselves to dubious interpretations to instigate people to violence should be reviewed because they have led to the destruction of lives and property of members of religious minorities.

Sixth. An independent commission of inquiry should be set up to assess the issue of forced conversion of women and girls from religious minorities. The Commission's findings should be made public and those involved in forced conversion should be apprehended. Moreover, a law banning forced conversion should be adopted.

Seventh. An effective de-radicalisation plan needs to be implemented. It should include a ban on hate speech, terrorist propaganda and on those who promote and finances it.

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