Govt notifies reconstituted commission for minorities

Updated 12 May 2020

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The commission will have six official and 12 non-official members including the chairman for a term of three years. — AFP/File
The commission will have six official and 12 non-official members including the chairman for a term of three years. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The Min­is­try of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony on Mon­day notified the reconstituted National Comm­ission for Minorities and its terms of reference which include ensuring that worship places of non-Muslim communities are preserved and kept in a functional condition.

Belonging to a business family from Jamshoro, Chela Ram Kewlani, ex-president of Pakistan Hindu Council and a leader of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf in Sindh, has been notified as chairman of the new commission.

According to the ministry’s notification, the commission will have six official and 12 non-official members including the chairman for a term of three years.

Among these 12 members of the commission for minorities, two are Muslim, three belong to the Hindu and Christian communities each, two members of Sikh community. The Parsi and Kalash communities of the country will be represented by one member each in the commission.

Besides Mr Kewlani, Hindu members of the reconstituted commission will be Dr Jaipal Chhabria, a social worker in Karachi, and Vishno Raja Qavi, a former bureaucrat from Sukkur.

Among the three Christian members, Prof Dr Sarah Safda is a former minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, while the two others belong to the clergy. They are Archbishop Sebastian Francis Shaw, belonging to Archdiocese, Lahore, Catholic Church, and Albert David, chairman of a political party, Pakistan United Christians Movement, who received one of the highest public service awards of the UK, MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of The British Empire).

The two Sikh members in the commission are Saroop Singh, a senior official in the Khyber Pakhtunhwa government, and Dr Mimpal Singh from Lahore’s King Edward Medical University.

The member belonging to the Parsi (Zoroastrian) community in the commission is ex-senator Roshan Khurshed Bharucha. She belongs to Quetta and had been minister in the caretaker set-ups in Balochistan and federal cabinets.

Dawood Shah, a social worker who also operates his small tourism business, will represent the Kalash community.

Both Muslim members of the commission hail from Lahore. Maulana Syed Mohammad Abdul Khabir Azad is khateeb of Badshahi Masjid, and Mufti Gulzar Ahmed Naeemi is son of Dr Sarfraz Ahmed Naeemi who used to openly denounce TTP and other terror groups before his assassination in a suicide blast at Jamia Naeemia in 2009.

The six official members include one representative each, not be below the rank of BS-20, from the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Law and Justice, Ministry of Human Rights, Federal Education and Professional Training. The chairman of the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) and secretary of the Ministry of Religious Affairs will also be official members of the commission.

According to the terms of reference, the commission will formulate proposal for development of a national policy to promote peace and interfaith harmony in the country.

It will formulate proposals for amending laws/policies which are reported to be discriminatory towards the religious minorities, recommend steps to ensure maximum and effective participation by the members of minority communities in all aspects of national life, ensure effective participation and association of minority communities with their religious and cultural festival and celebrations.

The commission will also look into the grievances and representations made by the members of any minority community.

Published in Dawn, May 12th, 2020