Activists Disapprove Creation of Ad-Hoc Commission on Minorities in Pakistan

05/06/2020 Pakistan (International Christian Concern) – Human rights activists, lawyers, academics, and other members of civil society in Pakistan have voiced their disapproval of the creation of an ad-hoc commission on religious minorities. These experts claim the commission’s formation through administrative action has rendered it an empty gesture to Pakistan’s minority communities.

On May 5, the Ministry for Religious Affairs approved the creation of a National Commission on Minorities as an ad-hoc committee under their supervision. This commission, by its very creation through administrative action, was formed with no statutory powers.

Members of Pakistan’s civil society claim this fails to provide the commission with sufficient independence and power to secure the rights of religious minorities in Pakistan.

An institution meant to establish respect for rights must have a strong legal basis,” a joint letter by Pakistani human rights activists claimed. “Otherwise, it will merely postpone resolve to the longstanding issues of institutional and structural inequality and discrimination on the basis of religion or belief.

Peter Jacob, Chairman of the People’s Commission for Minorities Rights, went on to say, “Various governments in the past 30 years have set up such ad-hoc minority commissions through administrative powers, which have failed to translate into protections for minorities. Setting up yet another body without powers and resources will defeat the purpose, therefore, we reject this as tokenism.

In a press conference, Jacob announced that the formation of the ad-hoc committee through administrative action would be challenged in court. Jacob went on to claim that Pakistan’s government did not fulfill its duty to form the commission through legislative action, a duty that was pledged by the government before the Supreme Court. According to human rights activists, forming the commission through legislative action would give it the independence and statutory power it needs to tackle the issue of religious discrimination and intolerance.

In Pakistan, religious minorities, including Christians, face high levels of intolerance and discrimination. At times, religious intolerance and discrimination can explode into incidents of direct persecution. According to Open Doors USA’s World Watch List, Pakistan ranks the fifth most dangerous country in the world for Christians.

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