ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) and Peoples’ Commission for Minorities Rights (PCMR) and Cecil and Iris Chaudhry Foundation (CICF) have vowed to resist the setting up of a toothless National Commission for Minorities as announced by the Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on Information and Broadcasting Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan on April 21, 2020.
In its meeting held in Islamabad on April 21, the Federal Cabinet had accorded an approval to reconstitute the National Commission for Minorities, fulfilling a long-awaited demand of the minorities in Pakistan to grant them more representation in the Commission.
However, in a joint statement, the CSJ Executive Director and the Chairman PCMR CSJ Peter Jacob, Michelle Chaudhry, Advocates Kalpana Devi, and I A Rehman stated that the move is a blatant aberration from the orders No. 4 of para 37 of Supreme Court passed on June 19, 2014 (SC SMC 1/2014) by a bench headed by the then Chief Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani.
Which stated that, “A National Council for minorities’ rights be constituted. The function of the said Council should inter alia be to monitor the practical realization of the rights and safeguards provided to the minorities under the Constitution and law. The Council should also be mandated to frame policy recommendations for safeguarding and protecting minorities’ rights by the provincial and federal government.”
Peter Jacob said that the orders of the court cannot be complied with unless an empowered, independent and statutory body is established that has powers to hold inquiries and provide remedies to human rights violations, therefore it will not be acceptable to us.
The CJS Executive Director further said that according to the UN guidelines for human rights institutions (Paris Principles), anyone holding a political office cannot be part of this Commission.
These Commissions should reflect a political consensus between government and opposition as provided for the establishment of a National Human Rights Commission Act No. XVI of 2012. Various governments in past 30 years had set up such Ad-hoc Minority commissions through administrative powers, which failed to translate into protection of human rights for minorities.
Setting up yet another body without powers and resources will defeat the purpose therefore we reject this tokenism.
An institution meant the establish respect for rights, must have a strong legal basis. Otherwise, it will merely postpone resolve to the long standing issues of institutional and structural inequality and discrimination on the basis of religion or belief.
The statement further said, “Earlier the National Commission for Human Rights, National Commission on Status of Women and Commission of the Rights of the Child, all have been established under proper legislation. We appeal to the Prime Minister and members of Federal Cabinet to review this decision in the interest of the country and establishing respect for human rights.”