Civil society organizations want ‘national council for minorities’ not commission
In a joint statement issued on Wednesday, civil society representatives criticised and rejected the upcoming ‘toothless’ National Commission for Minorities as announced by Federal Information Minister and demanded to set up a council for minorities.
Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan on Monday said that the cabinet had approved the formation of the ‘commission’ in a meeting.
Civil society representatives said as per the court order “A National Council for minorities’ rights should be constituted to monitor the practical realization of rights and safeguards provided to the minorities under the constitution and law. “The Council should also be mandated to frame policy recommendations for safeguarding and protecting minorities’ rights by the Provincial and Federal Government.”
I A Rehman, Peter Jacob, Michelle Chaudhry, Advocate Kalpana Devi from civil society organizations including the Centre for Social Justice and Peoples’ Commission for Minorities Rights and Cecil and Iris Chaudhry Foundation stated that the move is a blatant aberration of Supreme Court orders.
“Setting up yet another body without powers and resources will defeat the purpose therefore we reject this tokenism. An institution meant the establish respect for rights, must have a strong legal basis. Otherwise, it will merely postpone resolve to the long standing issues of institutional and structural inequality and discrimination on the basis of religion or belief.”
The statement said that the orders of the court cannot be complied with unless an empowered, independent and statutory body is established that has powers to hold inquiries and provide remedies to human rights violations, therefore it will not be acceptable to us.
The statement said, “Earlier the National Commission for Human Rights, National Commission on Status of Women and Commission of the Rights of the Child, all have been established under proper legislation. We appeal to the Prime Minister and members of Federal Cabinet to review this decision in the interest of the country and establishing respect for human rights.”
These Commissions should reflect a political consensus between government and opposition as provided for the establishment of a National Human Rights Commission Act No. XVI of 2012.