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ISLAMABAD: The caretaker Minister for Informa­tion and Law, Syed Ali Zafar, has said that making declaration of faith compulsory before joining the judiciary and civilian and military services is discriminatory and will be challenged.

“The government cannot discriminate in service laws in matters of employment. I believe that our judges are… learned and very aware of human rights. They know their obligations to protect these rights but this judgement is contrary to that and so must be challenged,” said Mr Zafar while speaking as the chief guest at a consultation session on minority rights, freedom of religion or belief, titled “Faith for Rights”, on Tuesday.

The event was organised by the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) and Potohar Organisation for Development Advocacy (PODA) in collaboration with the European Union (EU).

The minister was talking about the judgement of the Islamabad High Court that made it mandatory for every citizen, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, to declare their “true faith”, failing which they would be guilty of betraying the state and exploiting the Constitution.

“Court judgement or no court judgement, I disagree. I am also in charge of law [ministry] and we will challenge this judgement. It is nobody’s business to know what somebody’s belief is. Why should somebody be so intrusive? We do not need to disclose that. It is enough if you are a citizen of this country,” said Mr Zafar.

He argued that citizens were entitled to protection as the government deemed all citizens equal. “We cannot allow any sort of discrimination on the basis of belief and religion towards any citizen of Pakistan.”

EU’s Representative in Pakistan Anne Marchal said the EU would support every effort aimed at ensuring provision of human rights in Pakistan. She said the GSP plus status was linked with ensuring the implementation of 27 human rights conventions.

NCHR representative Shafique Chaudhary said their efforts were aimed at ending all sort of discriminations. Fazila Aliani, an NCHR member from Balochistan, PODA executive director Kaukab Jehan and others also spoke.

Published in Dawn, July 11th, 2018