Rights Leaders Claim Pakistan has not Fulfilled its Obligation to Protect Religious Minorities

ICC Note: Human rights leaders gathered together to call on the government to fulfill its obligation to protect religious minorities in Pakistan. In the wake of Pakistan’s single worst church bombing, the Supreme Court issued a judgement that called on the government to do more to protect religious minorities. To date, few of the instructions included in that judgement have been fulfilled.

05/14/2018 Pakistan (World Watch Monitor) – When a bomber killed 127 people at a Pakistan church, the country’s Supreme Court issued a list of instructions to the government to protect religious minorities. Four years later, the government has yet to follow most of them.

As with the religious freedom guaranteed in Pakistan’s constitution, the government’s lackluster response to the court’s instructions reveals the gap between the ideals contained in official documents and the disillusioning reality for Christians and other minorities in the overwhelmingly Muslim country.

“Our constitution, laws and public policy by and large conform to international standards, but the problem is with many countervailing factors that take over the system,” said Sarwar Bari, national director of the rights group Pattan, based in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad. “So the judgment alone is not enough. There must be mechanisms developed to overcome those countervailing factors.”

Those factors loomed large at a 9-10 May gathering of religious minorities, scholars, intellectuals, parliamentarians and government officials, including Bari, who gathered in Islamabad. It was organized by the National Commission for Human Rights, an autonomous public body, in collaboration with Community World Service Asia, a national civil society organization mainly working in livelihood, health and education.

The meeting was titled, ‘National Convention on the June 19th Judgment’, referring to a landmark order handed down that day in 2014 by then-Chief Justice Tasadduq Hussain Jillani, following the September 2013 bombing in All Saints’ Memorial Church in Peshawar, which killed at least 127 people and injured 250.

Acting on his own and not at the request of any party, Justice Jillani issued seven instructions to the Pakistan government:

  1. Constitute a team 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

No work has been done on any aspect of the judgment except school curricula, said Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, a member of the Pakistan National Assembly who holds a seat reserved for minorities.

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