HYDERABAD: A number of non-governmental and civil society organisations have formed an alliance to work for the protection of religious minorities’ rights and make efforts towards legislation against forced conversation, besides promoting right to expression and association.

A meeting in this regard was held in a local hotel on Tuesday where the South Asia Partnership-Pakistan (SAP-P) and the Right of Expression, Association and Thoughts (REAT) Networks announced the formation of the alliance.

It was attended by other components of the alliance including the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Sindh Hari Porihat Council, Village Development Organisation, Village Community Development Organisation, Bhandar Hari Sangat, Community Development Foundation, Church World Services, Bhitshah Deceleration Coordination Council, Sindh Development Society, Mehergarh Society, National Commission for Justice and Peace.

Shahnaz Sheedi of SAP said that the alliance of the civil society organistaions would play a leading role in promoting and protecting human rights, especially of the religious minority in Sindh and highlight the relevant issues.

REAT chairman Krishan Sharma apprised the meeting of the efforts and achievements of his ogranisation.

Gul Muneer Walhari told the audience that extremism was destroying the true spirit and essence of religions which summoned creation of the alliance that could help promote communal harmony and peace as well as work towards protection of fundamental rights of every citizen following any religion.

Jan Odhano observed that the southern part of Sindh was in the grip of extremism and terrorism. “Hindus feel helpless that deprived of their rights by extremists,” he said, and expressed the hope that the alliance would help counter extremism.

Dr Chandani Ram said that all segments of the minority communities including peasants, labourers and womenfolk were suffering while a group of capitalists was leading them and violating their human rights. “The laws protecting the rights do exist but they are not being enforced in letter and spirit,” he added.

Abdul Razaq Umrani said that civil society organisations should contribute towards empowerment of neglected communities in Sindh. He said the alliance should focus on the marginalised sections of society.

Dr Ashothama of the HRCP said that non-Muslim communities were demanding equal rights as they were being discriminated against at shops, restaurants, hotels and their workplaces.

Punhal Sario of the Sindh Hari Porihiat Council said that all government institutions were violating rights of minorities, and called for introducing laws to protect their rights.

Published in Dawn, February 11th, 2015

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