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Minorities' commission awaits legislation in Pakistan

President Arif Alvi urged to approve a draft bill for empowerment of the commission formed by the federal cabinet last year

Minorities' commission awaits legislation in Pakistan

National Commission for Minorities chairman Chela Ram Kewlani (right) with commission members at a meeting in Islamabad on Sept. 7. (Photo supplied)

Pakistan’s National Commission for Minorities (NCM) has called on President Arif Alvi to approve a draft bill for empowerment of the commission formed by the federal cabinet last year.

The recommendations, shared in a Sept. 7 meeting at the presidential house, include appointing only a non-Muslim as commission chairman and cover the process of appointing members and budget allocation. 

NCM chairman Chela Ram Kewlani highlighted the meeting in a tweet the same day. 

“This bill should have been passed 70 years ago. We hope it is passed in our tenure. This commission was formed 20 years ago but none of our communities knew about its existence. It only existed on paper. We have already shared our concerns with the prime minister and the chief justice of Pakistan,” Jaipal Chhabria, a Hindu NCM member, told UCA News.

“The budget will help us in conducting research, forming committees and providing timely legal aid to poor minority families. A committee has been formed on forced conversions but there are no resources to explore the causes, solution, number of such cases and their frequency in different districts.

“Similar committees are needed for a balanced syllabus in education institutes and the portrayal of minorities in the media. We have to fight discrimination at every level but we cannot pass any law.”  

I was not clear about the authority of this recommendation body. My resignation is still pending with the NCM

Minorities had been demanding an independent commission since 2014 when the Supreme Court bench, headed by former chief justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani, ordered the federal government to set up a national council to monitor human rights cases and ensure that constitutionally enshrined safeguards were put in place to protect the rights of minorities.

However, civil society has been critical of the NCM since its notification in May 2020.

Its 12 non-official members include three Christians including Archbishop Sebastian Shaw of Lahore, three Hindus, two Sikh, two Muslims, a Parsi and a member of the Kalashiya community.

The six official members are from federal ministries including human rights, education, law and interior.  

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Archbishop Shaw tendered his resignation in July 2020. “I was not clear about the authority of this recommendation body. My resignation is still pending with the NCM,” he recently told UCA News.

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