KARACHI: Representatives of various religious minorities have demanded the constitution of a ‘powerful’ commission on minorities’ rights. They have also suggested that no non-Muslim parliamentarian be made a part of the commission.
Human Rights Commission of Pakistan member Amarnath Motumal reasoned the commission should not consist of parliamentarians nominated on reserved seats for minorities as they only follow the party’s policy and guidelines. He was speaking at a discussion on the formation of a Minority Rights Commission, organised by the South Asia Partnership Pakistan, at Regent Plaza on Thursday. Motumal suggested there should be seven members in the commission, five of whom should be non-Muslims and the remaining from recognised NGOs.
A representative of the Hindu community, Dr Jaipal Chhabria, stressed that the head of the commission should be from a minority community. “The commission should have special powers and conduct studies and analysis of various issues. Specials reports will be sent to the government on arising issues.” He added that the commission be empowered to acquire any documents or information it seeks from government departments.
Advocate Saleem Michael suggested the commission’s responsibility will also be to study the Constitution. He pointed out that while Article 25 says everyone is an equal citizen, the head of the state cannot be from a minority community. The commission should be in direct coordination with the government, law enforcement agencies and other functionaries, suggested Kashif Anthony.
The discussion grew heated when representatives questioned the assistant director of the minorities’ affairs department present there, claiming it was doing nothing for the people. Christian activist Michael Javed said that while MNAs and MPAs were the biggest enemies, there was massive corruption in the minorities department too. “Cheques are not distributed to the poor people. Jobs are only given to those who have connections with the minister,” claimed Javed.
He said that the budget of the department was in several million but it was not performing, adding that since the minorities department was of no use, it should be abolished.
He said that the commission should also focus on the census of minorities.
Speaking about the five per cent job quota for minorities, Sardar Ramesh Singh said that the only jobs given to minorities were of sweepers.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 29th, 2015.
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