ASIA/PAKISTAN - The path of legality to promote the rights of all citizens and work to combat any discrimination

Monday, 12 June 2023 human rights   legality   religious freedom   religious minorities  

Lahore (Agenzia Fides) - Nine years ago, a historic ruling by the Supreme Court of Pakistan (Judgment No. 1 / 2014) expressed serious concerns that federal and provincial governments were failing to address human rights abuses and were not doing enough to address the Protect religious freedom and the rights of non-Muslim citizens (especially Christians and Hindus). This ruling was handed down by Tassaduq Hussain Jillani, then Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, and represents a milestone in the recent history of the judiciary in Pakistan.
Catholic Peter Jacob and executive director of the Center for Social Justice (CSJ) regrets "the situation has not improved since these Supreme Court orders over the past nine years". The Court has issued 89 successive orders (in addition to the seven original orders approved in 2014) that have remained a dead letter for lack of political action", says Jaciob, who emphasizes that if this ruling were implemented, "it would have the potential to improve overall governance and fix the existing institutional dysfunction: today, in fact, the state structure promotes prejudices for religious reasons which then translates into discriminatory rules and regulations, leading to unequal rights and suffering among citizens".
Meanwhile, CSJ released a report entitled "Quest for Justice", which examines court cases and executive branch executive orders and assesses whether government actions are consistent with Supreme Court orders. "It is disappointing - continues Jacob - the fact that governments have not complied with the 2014 ruling: today we are asking the government to approve a bill to set up a national legal Commission for minority rights".
Muslim Aslam Khaki, speaking at a conference organized by the CSJ in Lahore in recent days, said that "religion is being misinterpreted and misused for partisan interests, with some opposing religiously neutral textbooks, interreligious marriages, political reforms to prevent the misuse of blasphemy laws, to stop early marriages and forced conversions". The government - he continued - should promote religious tolerance and freedom of religion. According to Shafique Chaudhry, a Christian involved in civil society and politics, "religion is used as a means of achieving political consensus, leading to the radicalization of society".
Notably, well-known Muslim analyst and columnist Zaigham Khan laments that the blasphemy law is often misused to carry out personal vendettas or to persecute minorities under the guise of religious outrage. "These laws," Khan said, "are fundamentally contrary to the spirit of Article 20 of the Constitution and constitute a violation of freedom of religion and religious expression".
According to Muslim writer Tahira Abdullah, changes in education are crucial, and it is important that the curricula and textbooks adopted in state schools respect the rights, culture and beliefs of all citizens: "On the other hand, they promote enormous discrimination against religious minorities and women in Pakistan. Civil society is making efforts to combat phenomena such as forced conversions, kidnappings and forced marriages of young Hindu and Christian women, but there appears to be little political will and commitment to actually change the situation", he said. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 12/6/2023)