Legal reforms and legal literacy required for rights of vulnerable groups, including minorities
10 May 2018
Laws in Pakistan, if properly implemented, will uplift non-Muslims. This much is known. At the same time, there is a need to revisit certain legal loopholes and sensitizing people not to take law in their own hands, to ensure that non-Muslims do not feel exposed to vulnerability.
These thoughts came in the concluding sessions in a two-day discussion-workshop with around 30 participants from Punjab as well as Azad Kashmir, organized by Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS), a think-tank. The deliberations were aimed at exploring how interfaith harmony and freedom of faith can be explored in Pakistan.
Senior lawyer Saroop Ejaz pointed to the multiple causes of discrimination against religious minorities. One cause is lack of implementation of constitutional provisions that accord non-Muslims certain rights. He advised civil society to follow up on the 2014 Jassaduq Jillani judgment, which called for giving non-Muslims their rights.
Another cause, he hinted, emanates from the society. A lot of the times, people resort to mob violence against entire communities, taking law in their own hand. Finally, a decisive factor has been played by the state. The state, he said, has not being a neutral role in religious issues. This siding with one against the other has spawned all sorts of extremist tendencies that went unchecked. It was only recently that some course correction is in the offing in the wake of National Action Plan, he said.
PIPS’s senior project manager Muhammad Ismail Khan commented that the problem is as much with lack of implementing laws, as with legal lacuna. It is because of legal loopholes that non-Muslims are also exposed to all sorts of vulnerabilities. Sharing findings of a report that PIPS had carried out, he said, non-Muslims in Pakistan unanimously agree that they are under-reported. It was suggested that the religious-wise distribution of the census performed in 2017 be publicized. Without that, all sorts of speculation germinate, which is not beneficial for the society.
Religious scholar Ammar Khan Nasir said that all religions promote peace and harmony; the problem, he said, is not with religion but with people, no matter which religion. Global history is witnessed to the violence inflicted by even people who did not follow any religion.