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Violation of Constitution Does Not Serve Pakistan: PCMR

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LAHORE, Pakistan: The People’s Commission on Minority Rights (PCMR), a Civil Society Organ, has expressed its dismay over the news circulating in media, purporting that the Chairman of the National Commission on Minorities (NCM) Mr. Chela Ram has supported the violation of the fundamental right of religious minorities guaranteed under the Article 22 of Constitution of Pakistan.

In a joint statement on behalf of the PCMR, Justice (retd) Kailashnath Kohli, Advocate Kalpana Devi, M Parkash Mehtani, Dr. A H Nayyar, and Peter Jacob said that Mr. Ram apparently was uninformed of the opinion of educationists, the recent directions of the Supreme Court as well as Pakistan constitution on the subject.

The statement further said that “The educationists and minority rights groups have long campaigned for improving standard of education and adhering to the Constitutional restriction on religious teachings in subjects that are compulsory to students of all faiths. The NCM cannot ignore the interest of the minority students in education.” it further said that “PCMR holds that by doing so NCM will betray the trust of religious minority communities whose children have for years been subjected to a forced teaching of Islamic studies in schools.”

A recent study by the PCMR of the model textbooks for grades I to V issued by the Ministry of Federal Education has shown that every Urdu textbook contains lessons on majority religion, which is a violation of Article 22 of the Constitution of Pakistan.

The PCMR believes that the NCM ought to study these aspects of the Single National Curriculum (SNC) and the textbooks, listen to the viewpoint of civil society groups like the PCMR, and consider the impact on students of minority faiths before issuing any comment on the SNC.

The Chairperson PCMR Peter Jacob said that Article 22(1) of the Constitution safeguards minorities’ right to an education free of any religious instruction in compulsory subjects. It implies that no lesson in any textbook that is compulsory to students of all faiths should contain material specific to any religion. The stance taken by the citizens and responsible platforms should not be for appeasing anyone therefore the PCMR shall work for enforcement of the directions of the Supreme Court given during February and March 2021, and the 8th report of One-Man-Commission in the light of Article 22(1) of the Constitution of Pakistan.

Peter Jacob reiterated that it is a duty of all citizens and forums to uphold the command of the Constitution.

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