LAHORE: Observing the fifth anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court judgement on the protection of religious minorities’ rights, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) held a conference with other civil society organisations to reiterate the importance of implementing the judgement.
Speaking on the occasion, HRCP’s honorary spokesperson, IA Rehman, said that the implementation of the Jillani judgement was ‘not just a matter of concern for minorities alone. It is the concern of all Pakistanis.’ He added, “States that do not take good care of their minorities, perish. Yet the state has created an environment in which the media is afraid to discuss the problems faced by religious minorities.”
The panel, which included jurists, rights activists and representatives of different religious communities, spoke at length about the state’s lack of compliance with the Jillani judgement with respect to job quotas for minorities, the protection of sites of worship and the need to eliminate discriminatory material from school and college curricula.
Justice (r) Ali Nawaz Chowhan, chairperson of the National Commission for Human Rights, impressed on the state its historical and constitutional obligation to protect the interests of religious minorities.
Underscoring the plight of the beleaguered Shia Hazara community, Justice (r) Nasira Iqbal said it was not just that the Jillani judgement had to be implemented, but also ‘the ethos of the judgement that must be understood and pursued.’
Former Senator Farhatullah Babar pointed out that, following the Jillani judgement, ‘we thought that all the decisions would be in accordance with the jurisprudence,’ adding that this had not been the case.
HRCP Secretary-General Harris Khalique noted that there was ‘no concept of equal citizenship in Pakistan’s constitution. If non-Muslims cannot be President of the country, eventually they cannot be chief judges. Their representation on other forums is nominal.’ The panel agreed that the swift implementation of the Jillani judgement was critical if Pakistan’s religious minorities were to enjoy the same fundamental rights as all other citizens of the country.