ISLAMABAD: The National Commission for Minorities at its first meeting on Thursday focused on issues and problems faced by religious minorities in India.
Presided over by Chairman of the Commission Chela Ram Kewalani, the meeting was also attended by several non-Muslims as special guests.
Speaking on the occasion, Minister for Religious Affairs Noor-ul-Haq Qadri said: “The Constitution of Pakistan guarantees rights of minorities and their religious freedom. There is no debate over this issue as Islam directs protection of the rights of minorities.”
He said that setting up of the commission was a longstanding demand of the minorities which was met by the present government.
The minister criticised the Indian government over its treatment of religious minorities. “The condition of minority rights in the neighbouring country is very bad,” he said. “There is no example in the past to match the Indian oppression of Muslims even in the holy month of Ramazan,” he said.
Kewalani says followers of all religions are first and foremost Pakistanis
He said the commission would speak out at the global level against the atrocities and injustices meted out to the religious minorities by the state forces in India.
The chairman of the commission and members of the National Assembly and the Senate who attended the meeting said that unlike India, Pakistan attached great importance to the rights of minorities and their religious freedom.
The parliamentarians told the meeting that the main issues faced by the religious minorities in the country were forced conversion and encroachment of land of religious places. They vowed to work with the commission to solve the problems of the minorities.
The meeting paid tribute to Prime Minister Imran Khan for establishing the commission.
Mr Kewalani said that followers of all religions living in the country were first and foremost Pakistanis.
Although there was no agenda for the meeting, MNAs Ramesh Kumar Vankwani and Lal Chand suggested that the commission should have constitutional cover.
The meeting decided that a bill would be prepared and the ministry of religious affairs would present it in parliament so that the commission should get legal cover.
Mr Kewalani said: “There is one parliamentary committee against forced conversion, so we will hold a meeting with the parliamentarians and start working together.”
He asked the ministry of religious affairs to forward the list of all religious places belonging to Hindus, Christians, Sikhs and other minorities to the commission. The members of the commission would gather the same details with the help of respective communities at the district level. The members decided to submit their suggestions to the commission’s chairman to devise a strategy for the future.
Published in Dawn, May 15th, 2020