Pakistan: new commission for religious minorities will be useless without government approval

“It’s an obligation of the state of Pakistan to safeguard and promote the interests of minority citizens, as the Constitution demands.” These were the words of Peter Jacob, a Catholic, and president of the Popular Commission for Minority Rights. He was referring to a lack of implementation of the Supreme Court’s sentence on respecting the rights of religious minorities. This historic sentence, given on June 19, 2014, ordered federal and provincial authorities to implement a number of policies in favor of minorities, among others. The policies were meant to guarantee the safety in worship sites, promote religious and social tolerance and create a national commission for religious minorities. Several organizations for the defense of human rights have protested that only a small part of the sentence has been implemented. Peter Jacob clarifies that only 24 percent of the requirements laid out in the sentence have been met. He says the process is currently blocked due to a lack of support from the central government and local authorities for its implementation. In this context, the new commission for religious minorities has been created without the required parliament approval, established by the ordinary process. This prevents it from obtaining the autonomy it needs to carry out its functions. Michelle Chaudhry, president of the Iris and Cecil Chaudhry Foundation, says it is urgent to grant the commission legal status so it can fully begin to address issues related to human rights of religious minorities in Pakistan.

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