On the eve of Pakistan’s Minorities Day, the leaders of religious and civil society groups expressed concern over the government’s position towards minorities. Quotas are useless if enforcement rules are not implemented. An impartial education can foster social cohesion and harmony. Great efforts are needed to turn minority representation into participation.
Faisalabad (AsiaNews) – A conference on ‘Collective efforts for advancing diversities’ was held yesterday, eve of Pakistan’s Minorities Day.
A number of speakers representing religious and civil society groups addressed the gathering. One of them was Bishop Indrias Rehmat of Faisalabad who said that “disparities of rights in policies and laws can never ensure equality of status and treatment,”
For the prelate and the other participants, the government has failed to take seriously the problems minorities face, noting that quotas for minorities are a futile attempt to ensure political, religious, social and economic equality if they do not have proper enforcement mechanisms.
According to various sources, Ahmadis, Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and Shias are the most discriminated in Pakistan, a country of 212 million inhabitants, in which ethnic Punjabis and Sunni Muslims are the largest groups.
Catholics and Protestants number around 2 million each (just under 1 per cent of the population respectively).
Rizwan Ullah Kokab, who teaches history at the Government College University, points out that Pakistan is a land of many religions and different cultures. For this reason, the authorities’ "ethnocentric" approach is not useful to the cause of national unity.
In his view, social cohesion and harmony can be fostered through education if it is designed with impartiality.
Hamid Yaseen, assistant general secretary of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, noted that “education policy must incorporate the concept of human rights, social justice, peaceful coexistence and non-discrimination”.
In fact, minorities in Pakistan are still struggling to protect their identity and find too little space in society, explained Father Kahid Rasheed Asi. More “efforts are needed to reverse discrimination and convert the representation of minorities into participation”.
Former lawmaker Najma Afazl pointed the finger at decision-makers, who have failed to take practical steps to show their respect for diversity.