PAKISTAN: Call for certain amendments to secure equal rights to non-Muslims
Seminar on ‘1973 Constitution & Religious Minorities’ in Islamabad
Pakistan Observer (13.05.2023) – The Constitution of Pakistan gives equal rights to all citizens. However, with regards to the protection of the rights of minorities, there is a need for amendments in certain provisions of the Constitution. These views were expressed by senior politician of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and a vocal champion of minorities’ rights, former senator Farhatullah Babar, while addressing a seminar titled “1973 Constitution & Religious Minorities.”
The seminar held at the National Press Club Islamabad was organized by the Minorities Alliance Pakistan (MAP). Chairman of the MAP, advocate Akmal Bhatti, Fayaz Bhatti, Anush Bhatti and Asif Jan and other speakers took the floor on this occasion.
Farhatullah Babar said that although Article 25 of the Constitution gives equal rights to all citizens, this Constitution does not allow a non-Muslim to become President or Prime Minister of Pakistan. He also expressed some concerns about discrimination and incidents such as forced conversions and attacks on minorities’ places of worship, saying that unfortunately such incidents have increased. “It is the duty of the state to fulfill its responsibility about forced conversions and blasphemy laws,” he said.
He also called for the implementation of the 2018 report of the Senate in this regard. “Establishment of Pakistan itself was a struggle of minorities because at that time Muslims were in the minority in the subcontinent,” said Babar, adding that in the 1947 resolution on provincial autonomy, the rights of minorities were fundamental.
Advocate Akmal Bhatti said time had come to acknowledge the services and the sacrifices of the minorities and to shun the forces of extremism. “It can be made according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations,” he further said, adding the minorities lived for Pakistan and were ready to die for it. In the seminar, suggestions for amendments to the constitution were also presented and a resolution was unanimously adopted.
A seven-point resolution presented by Nadeem Bhatti on behalf of Minorities Alliance Pakistan and unanimously adopted
- The state must amend articles 41 & 91 to remove the ban on religious minorities to have access to the positions of President and Prime minister of Pakistan.
- Religious minorities demand amendments in articles 51 & 106 of the Constitution of Pakistan, to :
- grant them more seats in the National Assembly and Provincial Assemblies
- change the proportional representation on the party list electoral system and to provide mixed member proportional representation (dual vote system)
- Delimitation of constituencies regarding reserved seats for women and minorities.
- Amendment in article 59 of the Constitution of Pakistan to allot a seat in the Senate to the minorities of the Federal Capital.
- Amendment of all the laws and rules contrary to article 25 of the Constitution of Pakistan; equal status and citizenship to members of religious minorities in Pakistan.
- Enactment of the law to:
- stop forced conversions.
- provide expeditious and inexpensive justice to the accused of blasphemy and amendment to put an end to the misuse of sensitive laws.
- Implementation of a 5% job quota.
- The historical speech of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah on 11 August 1947 must be made a substantive part of the 1973 Constitution of Pakistan.
Photo: Lawyer Akmal Bhatti, President of Minorities Alliance Pakistan (MAP), was one of the speakers of the conference held at the Press Club in Brussels on 8 May 2023 by Human Rights Without Frontiers (HRWF)