Commission on minority rights fails to implement SC’s verdict


LAHORE: Former chief justice of Pakistan Saqib Nisar created a one-man commission in January to push the federal and provincial ministries and departments to implement the Supreme Court’s 2014 landmark judgement on religious minorities.

However, with Nisar’s departure, the future of the commission is in doldrums as its three months’ period has lapsed without any progress except one meeting of senior bureaucrats.

The commission was created to “take all measures to implement” the judgement passed on June 19, 2014, by the former chief justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani, giving the following seven directions to the government:

  1. Constitute a task force at a federal level to develop a strategy for promoting religious tolerance
  2. Develop appropriate curricula for primary, secondary and tertiary levels of education that promote religious harmony and tolerance
  3. Curb hate speech in social media
  4. Constitute a national council for minorities
  5. Establish a special police force to protect the worship places of minorities
  6. Enforce the 5 per cent minority quota in government jobs
  7. Prompt action, including registration of a criminal case, whenever constitutional rights of religious minorities are violated or their worship places are desecrated

The judgement also bound the Supreme Court to continuously pursue the implementation of the judgement by saying that “the office shall open a separate file to be placed before a three-member bench” to ensure that “this judgment is given effect to in letter and spirit”, and that it may also “entertain complaints/petitions relatable to violation of fundamental rights of minorities in the country.”

A three-member SC bench under this direction worked roughly until August 2015 but since then no bench could not be constituted. At last, after several petitions, a three-member bench, headed by former Chief Justice Saqib Nisar, heard these petitions in January and noted that “After perusal of the material placed on record by the federal as well as the provincial governments, we are not satisfied that substantial steps have been taken toward implementation of the judgment of this Court.”

In order to push the federal and provincial governments, the SC bench constituted a committee consisting of Dr Shoaib Suddle, Supreme Court lawyer Saqib Jillani, an Additional Attorney General and National Assembly member Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani.

The judgment gave three months’ period to the committee to finish its task and its duration could be extended “from time to time”.

This committee held its first meeting with full steam on January 31. Secretaries and other important stakeholders gathered with promises and lofty ideas in Islamabad. The next meeting was to be held in Peshawar but it could not be materialized and now the commission has expired.

In order to formalize further planning on this situation, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan held a consultative meeting on Tuesday and participated by Supreme Court lawyer Hina Jillani, HRCP Chairman Mehdi Hasan and renowned human rights champion IA Rehman. Saqib Jillani said that a public interest litigation should be filed and the Supreme Court be requested to constitute a three-member bench.

“All rights organisations and human rights defenders wish that all seven directions are implemented and for this purpose, the constitution of a three-member bench was necessary if the Suddle Commission is not anymore made functional.”