The constitution of Pakistan is a sacrosanct document which draws its strength from the consensus it enjoys by all and sundry. Its Article 260(3) (b) clearly defines the term “non-Muslim.”
This constitutional article clearly implies that whoever is mentioned here as a non-Muslim (citizen of Pakistan with a valid national CNIC) deserves to be part of any mechanism meant for the protection of the rights of religious minorities living in Pakistan.
One therefore wonders why certain Pakistani politicians, media persons and clerics raised hue and cry when they found out that members of the Ahmedia / Quadiani community may also be included in the proposed minorities’ commission. The noise, it seems, stemmed from ignorance of the constitution – its articles, 20, 21, 22 on religious minorities’ rights, as well as the Article 25 – which promises equal citizenry rights to all CITIZENS of Pakistan.
Originally, the minorities’ commission was supposed to be proposed jointly by the One-Man Commission under Dr. Shoaib Suddle and the Ministry of Religious Affairs. The Supreme Court had in fact entrusted Dr.Suddle in early 2019 with the task of helping in the implementation of its 2014 judgement. The job also included the creation of a statutory commission or council for minorities.
The 2014 judgement in the aftermath of the September 2013 twin suicide bombing at the All Saints Church in Peshawar, had stated:
Several years after non-implementation of its ruling, the apex court eventually created the One-Man Suddle Commission. In fact the religious affairs ministry gave an undertaking and its expression of support to the Supreme Court initiative in February 2020. Subsequently, Dr. Suddle prepared and circulated an excellent draft bill for a powerful, autonomous, independent and legally protected 13-member National Commission for Minorities, answerable to the Parliament. The council he proposed was very much in synch with the UN-approved Paris Principles based on universal human rights, norms and standards; pluralism. The draft bill also lays out a clearly-defined non-partisan merit-based selection criteria for its members.
But lo and behold, the ministry bureaucrats not only totally cold-shouldered the One-Man Commission, but also flagrantly hoodwinked the Court. They caused unpardonable embarrassment to the government too by coming up with skewed and extremely controversial commission, loaded with six all-Muslim bureaucrats as members. The 12 non-official member also include two Muslims.
What are Muslim bureaucrats and two non-official Muslim members doing in a Commission meant for minorities?
Does this maverick move by the religious affairs ministry violate the undertaking it gave to the Supreme Court as well flagrantly against the Paris Principles and the six human rights conventions Pakistan is a party to?
The commission – a self-serving tool for civilian bureaucrats’ jobs after their retirement – is a brazen violation, not only of the constitution; it literally flouts all UN Covenants.
The Paris Principles set out the international minimum standards that all national human rights institutions (NHRIs) must meet if they are to be legitimate, credible and effective in promoting and protecting human rights.
Endorsed by the UN General Assembly in December 1993, these principles were developed at a UN-sponsored meeting in Paris in October 1991, which brought together representatives of existing national human rights institutions (NHRIs).
The Asia Pacific Forum , the convener, has 25 members, including Nepal and Afghanistan. The only country missing from the list is Pakistan. In fact the un fully endorses the 1992 Paris Principles. it requires all states to have independent, legally protected human rights institutions, including those on minorities’ rights.
The discourse above makes it abundantly clear that the entire controversy that arose after a cabinet meeting was premised on ignorance of the constitutional provisions for all CITIZENS of the country. And a mischievously created commission with ulterior motives in favor of a few bureaucrats will not only add to the disrepute of the country but also attract further censure and possible sanctions by UN bodies as well as the US and major European countries.
Why should the country’s ranking and image improve if the bureaucrats – endorsed by politicians – act so recklessly in total disregard for the damage their selfish motives might inflict on the country?
The writer is Editor, Strategic Affairs at Daily Times, and also heads the independent Centre for Research and Security Studies, Islamabad and author of Pakistan: Pivot of Hizbu Tahrir’s Global Caliphate. Can be reached at Imtiaz@crss.pk
This article first appeared in Daily Times. Click here to go to the original.