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KARACHI: Representatives of the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) will visit Thar next Thursday to investigate the issue of forced conversions of non-Muslim communities there.

This was declared at a gathering of NCHR representatives held at the Karachi Press Club on Friday to mark the National Minorities Day.

Since 2009 the day has been observed to commemorate Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s August 11, 1947 speech in which he declared that all minorities would be free in Pakistan. 

Amidst a dismally slim attendance, the representatives reinforced the Quaid’s dedication to the minorities in Pakistan, and raised the issue of minority rights in the context of the current state of affairs in the country.

NCHR Chairman Justice Ali Nawaz Chowhan had flown in from Islamabad to share the work being done by the commission in Sindh and beyond. He explained that the NCHR aims to preserve and protect the freedom and rights of minorities and has always raised its voice for the protection of their rights.

Misuse of blasphemy law

“The recent allegations of forced conversions of minorities living in Tharparkar to Islam are being investigated. The NCHR has already suggested corrective measures in case of the misuse of blasphemy law and has laid its recommendations before the Senate of Pakistan,” it was said.

Justice Chowhan also spoke about the general lacking in the representatives of the minorities. “Minorities must ensure that the representatives they choose to put forth their case are worthy individuals. In my experience I have seen that many representatives do not represent their communities in the way they should. We are standing with the minorities to attain their basic rights. However, they must also select the best possible candidate for the job who will protect the struggle for their rights.”

Rights activist Anis Haroon spoke about the lack of implementation of the law that prohibits the conversion of anybody under the age of 18. “That law seems to have been shelved. We want that law to be passed, an act to be made, so that the issue of forced conversions does not crop up again and again.”

She also shared with the media that the commission would go to Thar on Aug 17 to investigate the alleged forced conversions of non-Muslims.

Karamat Ali of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler) criticised how non-Muslim Pakistanis were given the option of increased job quotas in sanitary work and nothing else.

“Quotas for all types of jobs for minorities need to be increased and this rule should be strictly implemented,” he demanded.

Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2017