ASIA/PAKISTAN - A new National Commission for minority rights is being studied

Tuesday, 10 January 2023 religious minorities   human rights  

Islamabad (Agenzia Fides) - In recent days, the Prime Minister of Pakistan Shahbaz Sharif announced during a meeting in Islamabad that a bill to establish a National Commission for Minority Rights is underway. "Although this is a commendable initiative, it is necessary to evaluate the work of existing national human rights institutions before creating a new body", Pakistani Catholic leader Peter Jacob, director of the "Center for social Justice (CSJ)" told Fides. "Jacob cites the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW), established in 2000; the National Commission on Human Rights (NCHR) established in 2015, neutral and permanent; the National Commission on the Rights of the Child, established in 2020. "In general it has to be said that the policy recommendations of the Commissions are ignored or action on them is delayed by the Federal Ministry of Human Rights", notes Jacob. Even the Pakistani provinces, he recalls, have set up bodies for the protection of human rights (commissions, offices and departments) but "these bodies are enormously lacking in resources, skills and their functioning is limited", he notes.
Such commissions, he notes, are supposed to operate "as a bridge between duty-bearers (government) and rights-holder (people)", but often "non-transparent governance places limits on their functioning". "The system requires that all bodies submit to government authority, while these Commissions, according to logic, should operate independently respect to the authority structures, in order to monitor them and ascertain any liability", he argues. Understanding these dynamics - notes Jacob - can be useful in thinking about a new Commission for minorities.
The director of the CSJ raises other objections: "First of all, it will be necessary to define the term 'minority', including not only religious minorities, i.e. non-Muslim Pakistani citizens. Furthermore, the Commission should be a body conceived 'for' the effective implementation of minority rights rather than a minority body". "The proposed legislation should then include the commitment of state institutions to implement its recommendations", he says. It could make use of a network of civil society volunteers, Jacob hopes, noting that "including minorities in the framework of equal rights means extending the question to equality and justice for all". (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 10/1/2022)