PESHAWAR: Representatives of religious minorities from parts of the province and adjacent tribal areas on Friday expressed their sense of insecurity and increasing curbs on their right of freedom of expression in the face of growing extremism in society.

“We remember how peacefully our grandparents lived here, but now there are so many threats to us,” said Sudesh Toni, a Sikh living in Peshawar who is also heading a youth forum.

He said that many Sikhs had closed down businesses and were just practicing their family profession of medicinal treatment of patients. “Why should we leave, it is the land of our forefathers,” said Mr Toni.

Robina, who hails from Christian community of Peshawar and runs an NGO, feels that spaces are shrinking for minorities.

“There is so much hate and intolerance for the religious minorities that I for example don’t feel safe even going to Church,” said Robina who narrated one instance where Christian girls from poor families were bullied at one of the government schools in the city where she went to make girls aware of health issues.

Such experiences were shared during a discussion on “religious extremism and religious minorities” organised by South Asia Partnership- Pakistan here.

Shahida Shah, focal person for minority rights in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa at SAP-PK, said that the organisation had felt the discrimination for the “rights to expression, association, assembly and thought”, which were among the fundamental human rights protected by the Constitution of Pakistan.


Non-Muslim students be given option to study ethics instead of Islamiyat, say speakers


SAP-PK is implementing a project called human rights fund- phase III to promote these rights in the context of religious freedoms in Pakistan. The project primarily focuses four kinds of actors which include parliamentarians and political/religious parties, media, lawyers and judiciary, and civil society organisations, said Ms Shah.

“The religious minorities face violation of rights. They face problems in getting jobs. There are forced conversions and even state is not playing a positive role to stop these violations,” she said, adding that the consultation was meant to consult civil society and religious minorities on a serious subject of whether non-Muslim students should be given right to choose ehtics or deeniyat subject as an option over Islamiyat (compulsory) subject in schools.

A number of participants from different religious minorities suggested that there should be an option to study the subject of ethics instead of Islamiyat for non-Muslim students, but trained subject teachers should also be made available in schools.

The participants were informed that non-Muslim students in Balochistan were given optional subject to Islamiyat so it should also be implemented in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The participants said that if minorities were also represented in parent teachers association, given a job quota and provided opportunities to get free education it could reduce problems.

Published in Dawn February 21th , 2015

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