Updated: May 06, 2020 03:38 AM GMT
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan chairs a cabinet meeting on May 5 at which the minorities commission was approved. No Ahmadis were included on the commission after opposition from Islamist groups. (Photo supplied)
Pakistan has approved the establishment of a much-awaited National Commission for Minorities amid criticism from rights groups.
The go-ahead came on May 5 in a federal cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan, according to Religious Affairs Minister Pir Noor ul Haq Qadri.
Chela Ram Kewlani, a Hindu member of the ruling Pakistan Justice party from Sindh province, has been named the commission’s first chairman.
Bishop Sebastian Shaw of Lahore, Albert David, chairman of the Pakistan Christian United Movement, and Sarah Safdar, diocesan secretary of the Church of Pakistan’s Peshawar Diocese, will be representing the Christian community.
The three Hindu members are Chela Ram Kewlani, Jaipal Chhabria and Vishno Raja Qavi. Two Muslim clerics, Maulana Syed Muhammad Abdul Khabir Azad and Mufti Gulzar Ahmed Naeemi, have also been named in the commission, which will also have two Sikh members and one member each from the Parsi and Kelash communities.
“No Ahmadi has been included in the minorities commission,” Qadri told media after the cabinet meeting.
Minority groups including Catholics denounced the proposed commission as “toothless and sham” in a joint statement on May 2.
Albert David, one of the Christian nominees, said he was aware of the criticism coming from minority groups about the composition of the commission.
“Everyone is entitled to his/her opinion. I will be able to comment once I receive the terms of reference about the powers and functioning of the commission,” David told UCA News.
“We will sit with other members and discuss the way forward. But we fully understand there are huge expectations from the Christian community and we will try to live up to them.”
The commission has been constituted more than six years after the Supreme Court of Pakistan, in a landmark judgment in 2014, called on the government to set up a body to protect the rights of minorities under the constitution.
A hardline Sunni Islamist group has threatened to stage protests if the Pakistan government fails to impose fresh restrictions on religious minorities.
Jamaat Ahle Sunnat Pakistan issued an 18-point list of demands at the weekend amid reports that the government was considering the inclusion of Ahmadis in the minorities commission.
….as we enter the last months of 2021, we are asking readers like you to help us keep UCA News free.
For the last 40 years, UCA News has remained the most trusted and independent Catholic news and information service from Asia. Every week, we publish nearly 100 news reports, feature stories, commentaries, podcasts and video broadcasts that are exclusive and in-depth, and developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes.
Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to – South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.
And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters who cover 23 countries in south, southeast, and east Asia. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don’t have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.
With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.