Sindh police have been praised for addressing the rights of religious minorities. (Photo: Zahid Hussain/UCA News)
A Catholic rights campaigner has hailed a decision by Pakistan’s Sindh province to set up exclusive police desks for religious minorities.
The desks will operate at zonal and district levels to address complaints by minority community members who feel they have been badly treated.
The additional inspector general (AIG) has directed deputy inspector generals (DIGs) of all districts in the interior of Sindh as well as zonal DIGs in Karachi to dedicate special teams for their respective areas. The initiative is part of a police reform program.
Sabir Michael, a Catholic academic and head of the Peace Welfare and Development Association, commended Sindh police.
“I welcome the police decision to open a special desk for minorities at zonal or district levels,” he said.
“This is actually the outcome of a landmark Supreme Court judgment given in 2014 in which it was said that the government should establish a proper and comprehensive mechanism for the redressal of complaints submitted by minority communities.
“I hope this action will be effective, visible and influential. If it is visible, it will be a great landmark towards the protection of minority communities in terms of their equal citizenship. But we should hope for the best and take the intentions of the government in good faith. We also hope this action will enhance the confidence of minorities.”
Zahid Farooq, an advocate for the rights of non-Muslims and a member of the Urban Resource Center, described the police move as a good initiative.
“This can be significant for minorities who have to face multiple obstacles when confronted with problems of the kidnapping of young minority children, forced conversion, mob attacks or security of their worship places,” he said.
“If there is a separate desk with a dedicated phone line, this will facilitate minorities. We hope that the Sindh police will demonstrate the same professionalism and good faith in hearing or addressing complaints. This will also negate the perception prevalent among minorities that they are unsafe.”
Each police desk is supposed to address issues such as forced conversion, religious provocation, honor killings and sexual assault.
Under the same reform program, Sindh police last year set up a human rights cell as its first initiative towards establishing a specialized unit to operate as a supervisory body responsible for addressing issues of human rights.