ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani on Tuesday hinted at framing guidelines for law-enforcement agencies for protection of minorities’ rights.

“We believe that the Constitution has set goals, pledges and commitments that the nation has vowed to live by and to achieve these dreams we may develop guidelines for the protection of rights of minorities,” observed the chief justice who heads a three-judge bench hearing a suo motu case relating to the Sept 22, 2013 bomb attack on a church in Peshawar. Over 80 Christians were killed in the attack.

The court observed that desecration of places of worship of any faith attracted blasphemy laws under Section 295 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and indicated that it would consider the role of police in protecting the rights of minorities in an effective manner or suggest raising an alternative special force for the purpose.

The case was taken up on an application of Nadeem Sheikh and Saleem Michael, the in-charge of minority wing of Justice Help Line.

Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, patron of the Pakistan Hindu Council (PHC), informed the court that six incidents of desecration of temples and places of worship in Sindh had taken place over the past two months and regretted that the attackers could not be brought to justice because cases had not been registered under relevant laws.

A Dharamshala in Larkana was set on fire on March 13, a Hindu temple in Hyderabad on March 17, Wheri Jab temple in Mithi, Tharparkar district, on March 30 and Bhagwat Geeta temple in Shikarpur on May 7.

When the court asked Additional Advocate General of Sindh Mir Qasim Jath if these cases had been registered under blasphemy laws, he said the incidents did not attract such laws.

“You do not know what the law is,” the chief justice said and asked him to read section 295 of the PPC.

Assistant Inspector General Sindh Ali Sher Jhakrani informed the court that challans in these cases had been registered.

But the court ordered him to submit a report suggesting what action had been taken so far and under what sections the cases had been registered.

The court decided to appoint former attorney general Muneer A. Malik from Karachi, Khawaja Haris from Lahore and Hassan Aurengzeb from Islamabad as amici curiae to assist it in drafting the guidelines.

Addressing the representatives of different faiths, the court said it shared the agonies of minorities with empathy and compassion, but the present proceeding was initiated on a suo motu notice. Therefore, the court has sought assistance from the prominent lawyers in finalising the guidelines for law-enforcement agencies for the protection of rights of minorities.

The chief justice observed that certain constitutional pledges and goals were set in the preamble, objective resolutions as well as Articles 20 and 22 of the Constitution on how to protect the rights of the minorities. The court commenced the present proceedings because these pledges and commitments reflecting the dreams of the entire nation somehow could not be honoured, he said.

The court said it would welcome any proposal or suggestion from representatives of minorities with regard to the framing of the guidelines.

Saleem Michael regretted that the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association), a prestigious institution in Karachi, was in a bad shape and its property was being misused by unauthorised people.

The matter is sub judice before the Sindh High Court which has appointed a court Nazir (administrator) to look after the affairs of the institution till a final decision in the case.

Referring to the Liaquat-Nehru Pact, the chief justice regretted that because of tensions between India and Pakistan the rights of minorities in both the countries were not being protected. But he said the Indian Supreme Court was very sensitive towards the issue and had requested its Pakistani counterpart to assist it on the issue of Pakistani fishermen languishing in Indian jails.

The court observed that Pakistan had already released Indian fishermen from its jail.

The court ordered the Sindh government to submit a report on the situation relating to Christ Mission School in Karachi, an old alma mater of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah.

When Reverend Shahid De Marrage complained of non-registration of Christian marriages in Punjab, the court directed Advocate General of Punjab Mustafa Ramday to submit a report on the matter.

The case will be taken up in the first week of June.

Published in Dawn, May 14th, 2014.

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