Destined to fail
If the government is just doing this for the sake of implementing the order to avoid any conflict, it is a waste of time and money, and politicians should stop fooling our minorities
When the ex-Chief Justice (CJ) of Pakistan, Tassaduq Husain Jillani, ordered the constitution of a Council for Minorities’ Rights (CMR), Christians were relieved and proud of the decision, believing that someone was finally caring about them. Their hopes were raised and they believed the time had come for their wounds to be healed and tears to be wiped. However, it seems there is no end in sight for their suffering and some Christian and political leaders have already started expressing their concerns because it seems that, instead of establishing an independent, powerful and autonomous council, as the result of a hasty decision they are going to copy the 1993 commission, which was last headed by the then minister for religious and minority affairs, Ijazul Haq, the son of General Ziaul Haq who pushed the country toward the dark ages when he was in power.
I am not aware if the commission ever did anything to protect minorities’ rights, apart from giving out some awards. That commission also failed to prepare and present any recommendations to the government for safeguarding minorities’ rights. It failed to raise their status in Pakistani society and bring some comfort to their miseries. In the past few years, extremism and hate against minorities have reached an alarming high and, instead of diminishing, we have seen an increase in several deadly attacks on their places of worship and settlement.
The commission was more involved in promoting interfaith harmony without producing any positive results. As far as I am concerned, its full emphasis was on raising a soft image of Pakistan in the world, instead of working for minorities’ rights. I believe the new commission will work along the same lines and what has been said by the Supreme Court (SC) will not be implemented, meaning that the situation of minorities in Pakistan will not improve. If the government is really sincere about the minorities and wants to implement the SC’s order in letter and spirit, then first of all it is important to consult with the minorities and take them into confidence to constitute an independent, autonomous and powerful commission.
However, if the government is just doing this for the sake of implementing the order to avoid any conflict, it is a waste of time and money, and politicians should stop fooling our minorities and the world. Despite Pakistan’s minorities playing an effective role in all walks of life and rendering services to the development and prosperity of Pakistan, they have always had to fight for equal status and rights. If the government does not want to devote the time and attention setting up a commission like this requires, then I would suggest copying the Indian national commission for minorities’ framework (which was established as a result of the Liaquat-Nehru Pact), instead of copying any of Pakistan’s previous commissions because these commissions have failed to bring any change, so much so that minorities are not even aware of their work.
From what the government has already revealed about the commission, it appears that Muslim members will dominate it, making it easy for them to influence the decision making process, rendering the commission useless. Moreover, if these members are going to be only members of parliament then it will be totally unacceptable to the minorities. The government is treading on dangerous ground if it is going to constitute a council for minority rights without consulting the minorities. It sets a terrible example of mistreatment of minorities and deprives them of their rights. Ostensibly, it is being done to protect minorities but this is all meant to keep them out of the whole process.
CJ Jillani has reminded the government of its domestic and international responsibilities and obligations toward minorities, quoting Quranic references, international conventions like the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), which has been ratified by Pakistan. We are under obligation to bring our laws into conformity with these international conventions. These obligations have immensely increased since Pakistan was granted GSP Plus status by the EU.
Nothing can be a more timely reminder than this order of the SC where it realised and recognised that minorities’ rights are being violated and something has to be done about it. Unfortunately, minorities are constantly being cheated, no matter which party is in power. There is no doubt that displaying a face of sincerity, the government and opposition are in fact going to cheat the minorities. Above all, we need to know the framework, aims and objectives of this commission. We need to know if this commission will be independent and autonomous, or under the ministry of religious and minority affairs, as was the previous commission. If this commission is not going to be independent and autonomous, the minorities should not have any hope for a better life in Pakistan. This has the potential of being the biggest fraud with minorities.
I would suggest that the government take its time, consult the minorities and most appropriately, request the ex-CJ Tassaduq Hussain Jillani to become its chairman, leaving everything to him. I am sure he would be happy to work with Pakistan’s oppressed and beleaguered minorities and I believe that the minorities have more trust in him than any politician.
I think the time has come for the government to apologise to the minorities for what has been done in the past. Many great nations have issued apologies for any mistreatment of their vulnerable citizens, and have changed their approach towards them. Also, the moral and political health of any society is expressed in how it treats its minorities. If the government does not stop here, does not take the minorities into confidence and continues imposing its agenda, then the purpose of the CMR is already buried.
Courtesy: Daily times (Pakistan) Wednesday, July 23, 2014