Political parties must take concrete measures to promote tolerance and human rights: CSJ

NationalPolitical parties must take concrete measures to promote tolerance and human rights:...

KARACHI, Pakistan: The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) organized a seminar on “political parties’ priorities and minorities’ rights” wherein speakers emphasized that political parties must invest in efforts to promote social cohesion and address human rights issues faced by marginalized groups.

The Executive Director of the CSJ Peter Jacob, Mazhar Abbas, Mehnaz Rehman, Anis Haroon, Sheema Kirmani, and Justice Kailash nath Kohli were among the speakers, while Lubna Jerar Naqvi moderated the seminar.

At this juncture, CSJ’s report titled “Promises to Keep & Miles to Go” based on the analysis of pledges, actions, and performance regarding minorities rights made by political parties was launched which the political parties in the government and opposition largely failed to implement their pledges fully in the last three parliamentary tenures.

The study found that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf fulfilled none out of five promises made in election manifesto 2018, though it made partial progress on two promises. Pakistan Muslim League-N failed to materialize nine out of ten promises. Pakistan Peoples’ Party partially implemented one out of eight promises.

Peter Jacob said that the Centre for Social Justice desires to contribute positively in the very complex situation of political polarization in Pakistan. We have carried out this study with the intention and objective of showing the political parties the reality of their pledges made in the previous election manifestos and to invite their intention on how superficial these pledges have been. He added that we wish to draw the intention of the political leadership as well as the concerned citizens, the voters, public at large to basically try to inject some seriousness into the political process, particularly around the electoral process. Therefore, this report we hope will contribute in improving the state of democracy and ultimately the respect for human rights.

Mazhar Abbas said that it is sad that political parties fail to fulfill their promises, and the elected representatives do not even speak for the rights of marginalized groups. There is a lack of political will to address minority-related issues due to extremism and intolerance promoted by religious groups. He added that a country that fails to ensure minorities’ rights, cannot implement even the rights of the majority. The minority legislators need to be more proactive in introducing legislation, and CSJ’s report is an effective tool to make political parties accountable.

Anis Haroon said that people follow religions, and the state is not meant to practice any, in order to effectively fulfill its responsibility to ensure equal rights, opportunities, and treatment for all citizens without any discrimination. The discriminatory constitutional provisions needs to be revisited in the light of 11th August Quaid speech, she demanded.

Justice (retd) Kailash nath Kohli said that the court needs to play role in preventing corruption as exemplified by the illegal selling of minorities’ properties under the Evacuee Trust Property Board. He said that every political party should ensure merit-based selection, however, the separate electorate is counterproductive to the ideals of democracy. It is extremely sad that the orders of the Jillani Judgment regarding job quota, tolerant curricula, minority rights commissions are not implemented as of yet.

Sheema Kirmani said that implementation on existing laws can only be ensured if social and cultural values are changed with better and enlightened ones. The ruling parties need to stop imposing intolerant thoughts into the general public, she added.

Mehnaz Rehman said that the government needs to invest its resources and energies to inculcate ideals of inclusion and tolerance in the society, and take actions against forces involved in promoting hatred and intolerance in the society.

The CSJ’s report titled “Promises to Keep & Miles to Go” which revealed that the Punjab government during 2008 and 2022 introduced 11 policy actions followed by the federal government with 9 actions, Balochistan with 8, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with 7, and Sindh with 6 actions. The majority of policy actions lacked a strong legal basis and implementation mechanism which indicates a need for a serious re-examination of our administrative system. The policy actions rely heavily on issuing notifications, which is a convenient use of administrative powers while the government evidently faced difficulties in legislating and instituting rules of procedures in various measures. The concrete information on the utilization of funds allocated for scholarship, places of worship, skill development etc. was not made public or there was a lack of implementation due to an absence of notifications or the purpose of the policy action was not fulfilled.

The study showed that one-third of the pledges in parties’ manifestos throughout three election years i.e. 2008, 2013, 2018 were common including; minority representation in ETPB, establishing a statutory minority commission, criminalizing forced conversions, reviewing curriculum, implementing job quotas and reviewing discriminatory laws. However, the pledges remain unfulfilled.

The study revealed that the political parties appear to be reluctant to take measures to address outstanding issues faced by minorities, to counter the anti-minorities propaganda, as transpired in the case of draft bills on criminalizing forced conversions which were ignored by national, and Sindh assemblies due to pressure exerted by religious forces. However, they made partial progress on the inclusion of religious studies as an alternative to Islamiat, textbooks are yet to be developed.

The study found that the political parties are increasingly using the language that manifests their aspiration about the empowerment of minorities but while in power, the parties heavily rely on non-legislative means or weak measures, such as; issuing executive notifications instead of passing legislation to introduce affirmative measures, which ultimately weakened the measures themselves. For instance, a law is yet to be enacted to establish a statutory National Commission for Minorities despite it was promised by PTI and PPP. Likewise, a law is yet to be enacted to effectively implement job quotas for minorities in government departments and institutions despite it was pledged by PML-N, PPP and PTI in their election manifestos.

Mati-Ullah is the Online Editor For DND. He is the real man to handle the team around the Country and get news from them and provide to you instantly.

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