Lahore, National Minorities Day: Promises and assurances are not enough
by Shafique Khokhar

A meeting is held in Lahore to ask for more rights. Participants reiterated their commitment to a "multi-religious" Pakistan. The goal is to obtain specific measures, including the right to study one's faith.

Lahore (AsiaNews) – The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) held a meeting in Lahore yesterday on “Minorities’ rights: Moving beyond promises and assurances” to mark National Minorities’ Day.

The event was organised in co-operation with the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) and the Cecil & Iris Chaudhry Foundation (CICF).

National Minorities Day is held on the day that the founder of Pakistan, Ali Jinnah (Quaid-e-Azam) addressed the inaugural meeting of Pakistan’s constituent assembly, on 11 August 1947. In his speech, Jinnah expressed his dream for a "multi-religious" Pakistan in which everyone had the same rights and duties.

Rev Alexander John Malik, Anglican bishop emeritus of Lahore, spoke at the gathering in Lahore. “I have no political allegiances,” he said, “only Pakistan. We are all Pakistan. Those who deny minorities’ rights do not understand Quaid’s vision for Pakistan. We shall oppose them no matter who they are.”

For Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s representative Ejaz Chaudhry, “As Muslims are in the majority in Pakistan it is our responsibility to look after and protect our minorities. Everyone should be allowed to practice their beliefs.”

Other Muslim leaders came to the defence of minority rights." Our society has been intoxicated with hatred and extremism. We must educate people and arrest and punish those who have destroyed Pakistan,” said Lahore Mayor Mubashir Javed, a representative of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz.

“Allama Iqbal also believed that minorities should be given all political, economic rights in a state,” said Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s Waleed Iqbal. “Minorities in Pakistan have been consistently denied their rights, we will enact structural reform to establish a National Minorities Commission followed by provincial commissions. People can hold us answerable to promises we made in our manifesto”.

Many activists and officials attended the meeting. Those present expressed their intention of working together with all sectors of society for the future of an open and multi-religious Pakistan.

During the conference, a list of measures was proposed for the authorities to implement. They include: incorporating Ali Jinnah’s speech in Pakistan’s Constitution, establishing a National Minorities Commission, having the government work out agreements with minorities like the Bahais, Parsees, Sikhs, etc., adapting the marriage law to human rights standard, allowing non-Muslim youth to study their faith and not Islam, and setting up a committee with the power to implement the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry established after the Gojra massacre of 2009.

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