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  • » 08/11/2016, 16.32


    Pakistan marks Minorities Day but does not guarantee their rights

    Shafique Khokhar

    Today is 69th anniversary of the historic speech by Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of modern Pakistan, before the constituent assembly of the newly-established state. The Day honours the contribution of minorities to nation-building. Christian, Hindu and Sikh leaders want justice. Priorities are work, education and an end to forced conversions.

    Lahore (AsiaNews) - The Government of Pakistan must remember its responsibility to protect the rights of marginalised communities, representatives of the country’s religious minorities said on 11 August, Minorities Day.

    Today is in fact the 69th anniversary of the historic speech by Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of modern Pakistan, before the constituent assembly of the newly-created nation (1947).

    In 2009, the government decided to dedicate a day to Pakistan’s (Hindu, Christian and Sikh) minorities to honour their service to and sacrifices for the nation.

    After recent attacks on members of these groups, this day also provides an opportunity to remember the abuses, intolerance and violations minorities have had to live with.

    Social discrimination, say some leaders, "has now become the norm, reinforced by hate speech that leads to violent incidents."

    In March 2013, a mob burnt about a hundred Christian homes in Lahore after accusing Christians of blasphemy. In November 2014, a married couple was burnt alive in Punjab for the same reason.

    These incidents, say minority leaders, are part of the constant abuse of the blasphemy laws in Pakistan. For them, the government should implement some real changes if it really wants to honour minorities in an honest way.

    It must first stop recruiting only non-Muslims as street sweepers. It must remove from school textbooks any content that incites hatred against minorities. It must adopt a policy that awards 20 marks for admission of minority students enrolling in university, as it does with Hafiz Quran students.

    Minorities also call for the publication of a report on the use of government funds earmarked for minorities.

    The Punjab government allocated 20 million rupees for scholarships, but they were never paid out. In 2015-16 the government increased its minority budget to 1 billion rupees, but the money was never spent.

    Finally, marginalised communities require strong action against forced conversions to Islam and a 5 per cent job quota for their members.

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    See also

    26/02/2016 16:22:00 PAKISTAN
    Christian women in Pakistan forcibly converted to Islam and married off to their kidnappers

    Tahira, 21, and Reema Bibi, 20, were abducted near their home last December. The Muslim men who took them, raped them and forcibly married them, and then kept them segregated. At least 1,000 Christian women are forcibly converted in Pakistan each year. If they escape, the police arrests a family member.

    06/02/2014 PAKISTAN

    Christian girl abducted, converted and forced to marry a Muslim in Lahore
    The family of Samariya Nadeem staged a protest this morning in front of the city's press club. For the past three weeks, their 16-year-old daughter has been in the hands of a wealthy landowner. As police and the authorities fail to free her, the Catholic Church calls for justice on the family's behalf. But for Muslim cleric, it is "not illegal to abduct and convert non-Muslims".

    02/11/2011 INDIA
    Kashmir, false accusations of forced conversion against a Protestant pastor
    C. M. Khanna, pastor of All Saints Church in Srinagar accused of converting Muslim youth. The President of the Global Council of Indian Christians denounces the continuing cases of pressure and violence against the Christian minority in Kashmir.

    29/07/2005 SRI LANKA
    Archbishop of Colombo tells government to respect religious freedom
    Archbishop Gomis makes his appeal as two "dangerous" anti-conversion bills make their way through parliament. The recent attack against a local Catholic church was the work of outside fundamentalists who act without reason but to destroy. "The Catholic community is not afraid; fundamentalists are a minority".

    07/02/2017 17:39:00 PAKISTAN
    Pakistan soon to outlaw mob violence and forced conversions of minorities

    Pakistan’s parliament passes law that punishes sectarianism, lynching and false accusations that lead to wrongful convictions. Now the bill awaits the president’s approval. Christian activist praises the effort to curb terrorism. Leader of an Islamist group defends the blasphemy law.

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