South Asia: NCJP and Wise report on minorities
by Shafique Khokhar

Approval and thanks for first report on minorities in the South Asian nations. The report covers all social, economic, legal and political discrimination of minorities and establishes baselines for systems of minority law. The report will be expanded and updated on an annual basis.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) - Despite many years of sustained growth and development interventions in South Asia, development indicators for the region remain dismal. The region, accounting for a fifth of the world’s population, is one of its poorest parts. It is also where civil and political rights are severely restricted, with frequent reports of human rights violations across the region.

Media reports, civil society program reports, research studies and the odd official report, however limited, point to South Asia’s minorities – religious, ethnic, linguistic and gender - being among the poorest and most vulnerable sections in the region; they are also victims of most conflicts and violence and atrocities by state and non-state actors. South Asia’s minorities thus suffer doubly.

South Asia is characterized by its large population, growing poverty, weak governance structures and feeble democratic institutions, increasing militarization and sectarianism. Governments in South Asia have pursued national security through destructive military apparatuses, rather than (seeking) security for citizens by actualizing their creative potential. Most important, the

Nations of South Asia are still in search of a social contract that can satisfy their people, regardless of gender, faith, ethnicity or religion.

These are the findings of South Asia State of Minorities’ Report 2016 compiled by NCJP (National Commission for Justice and Peace) and WISE (Women in Struggle for Empowerment), the report is supported by Minority Rights Group and Books for Change, the report recently launched in Pakistan at HRCP office, on 27th of October. At the event human rights defenders, media personage, minority members and intellectuals were present and gave their views about the report.

Given this long term vision, the present first edition of the report (2016) seeks to establish a baseline on minority groups and minority rights’ regimes, mechanisms and practices across country contexts in the region by mapping the terrain. Subsequent reports will build on this to assess country performance on minority rights based on events in the past year (country overviews) whilst also providing thematic analyses of a subject of topical interest for the region as a whole using a regional lens.

Mr. Kashif Aslam, coordinator at NCJP gave an introduction and background of the report. He also thanked all the participants and contributors of the report as well.

Ms. Bushra Khaliq, a feminist and director at WISE, was the moderated of the launching ceremony. She started with a note of thanks and appreciation for all the member, Advisory committee of People’s SAARC. She also thanked all the contributors of south Asia minority report individuals and organizations of making it possible. She said, “Victimization of religious minorities in south Asia is very high we can use this report as reference book for advocacy purpose at national, regional and international level.”  She further said, “The recommendations came through this discussion would be a part of next version. The report is based on credible statistics and data gathered from all credible organization like HRCP. A special thanks to NCJP, WISE and Mr. Cecil Shane Chaudhry for their support both organization believe that all citizens are equal without any sort of discrimination.”

Mr. Cecil Shane, executive director at NCJP, appreciated the work done by Ms. Bushra Khaliq and Mr. Kashif Aslam (both the compilers of the report). He said, “The report is authentic and credible in itself. The guidance by advisory committee is also very essential for the report. We can use the report to do the advocacy for the protection of rights of religious minorities in south Asia and at international level. The report will be helpful during Universal periodic review.”

Mr. Irfan Mufti,ts   a renowned human rights activist and deputy director at South Asia Partnership Pakistan (SAP-PK) thanked and congratulated NCJP and WISE for compiling such an important report. He said, “With regards to victimization of minorities, Pakistan is not an exception all religious states face this victimization, we should search for common ground at regional and international level to solve this victimization because its graph is rising day by day. Today the Non -state or beyond state actor are more hostile towards minorities than state actors. We should also have a comparative analysis of discriminatory and protection laws for religious minorities existing in other South Asian countries. This report should be published on yearly basis with a comparative analysis.”

Mr. I. A . Rehman, executive director at HRCP congratulated both organizations and researchers as well. He said, “This is a very important subject on regional pace and the process should continue. We should set parameters for it because minorities face problems everywhere in the world. Raising fundamentalism in south is a hurdle in dealing with minorities. Pakistan is country which creates minorities e.g ethnic, religious, cultural and linguistic minorities exist in Pakistan. Report covers all the social, economic, legal and political aspects of discrimination with minorities.”  

Below are the recommendations raised by participants

1. There should be a south Asia collective alliance to solve this problem.

2. CSOs should work collectively to tackle the victimization of minorities by state actor.

3. In the next version of report incorporate other ethnic, cultural, and linguistic minorities as well.

4. Indigenous population should also mention in next report e.g Kalasha community and Hazaras.

5. Social discrimination with Hindus should be mentioned.

6. Different movement lead by minorities should be a part of report to make it a minority perspective report.

7. Report should be implemented and used for grass root level awareness.

8. Struggle for minority rights should be incorporated.

9. The report should be a part of national discourse because Pakistan is a special case with regards to minorities.

10. There should be a comparative analysis or study as well.