LAHORE: South Asia Partnership-Pakistan (SAP-PK) has demanded establishment of commission on minority rights at national and provincial levels. It will help improve the situation of human rights concerning religious minorities in the country.
It was also demanded that it should be an autonomous body with financial and administrative powers and which could also analyse the laws and policies discriminating towards religious minorities. SAP-PK has also asked the government to ensure religious freedom and other fundamental rights of minorities as promised under national and international commitments. SAP-PK National Coordinator for Human Rights Fund-III (HRF-III) Hameed Gondal, during a press briefing at a local hotel on Monday, said that the organisation has already started implementing a programme “HRF-III” to increase protection and promotion of rights of expression, assembly, association and thought, including religious freedoms of minorities all over Pakistan.
Expressing concerns over the situation of minorities, he said that it is deplorable to say that persecution of minorities in Pakistan is a major issue, but the matter is not being taken seriously by the government. He said, “The constitution of Pakistan in its introductory chapter clearly says that no person shall be prevented from or be hindered in doing that which is not prohibited by law; and no person shall be compelled to do that which the law does not require him to do.”
He said articles 16, 17, 18 and 19 of the constitution grant freedom of assembly, freedom of association and freedom of speech to every citizen in Pakistan regardless of any distinction. Article 20 of this constitution allows professing religion and managing religious institutions. Speaking about the international commitments, Hameed Gondal added that the Pakistan has ratified the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which obliged the state to ensure the protection of religious freedom and other fundamental rights such as right of expression, association, assembly and thought.
The government was bound to share its initial report with UN committee by September 2011 on the state of civil and political rights guaranteed by ICCPR which has not been submitted yet. SAP-PK demanded the government fulfil its reporting obligation regarding UN human rights mechanism. Referring the Universal Periodic Review of Pakistan conducted in October 2012, Gondal said the importance of the religious freedom and right to expression, association and thought can be gauged by the fact that out of 164 recommendations made by international community more than 30 were directly concerning the situation of religious minorities regarding religious freedom and right to expression, association and thought.
Gondal said that Pakistan has accepted and ratified these declarations and international conventions which obviously grant those rights equally to everyone regardless of any distinction of cast, creed or religion. Universal Declaration of Human Rights articles 2, 18, 19, 20 and 22 speak about every ones’ rights including freedom of thought, freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and association and trade unions respectively without any distinction.
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