i AM ABBAS KASSAR
(The writer Ghulam Abbas Kassar, is from Hyderabad city of Sindh,Pakistan.
With 30 years experience of working in English newspapers as sub editor,news editor and reporter.Presenlty he works as bureau chief of daily Messenger, Karachi,Pakistan and writes for Pakistan Christian Post,Boulders,USA , and Indian Muslim Observer New Delhi,India. He is general secretary of Hyderabad Union of Journalists(Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists),member governing body Hyderabad press club and member Writers International. Also Recepient of life time achievement award in journalism in Pakistan.)
PAKISTAN UNWILLING TO PROTECT RELIGIOUS MINORITIES RIGHTS UNDEDR ICCPR
BY GHULAM ABBAS KASSAR
Minority rights, as applying to ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples, are an integral part of international human rights law, Like children rights, women’s rights and refugee rights, minority rights are a legal framework designed to ensure that a specific group which is in a vulnerable, disadvantaged or marginalized position in society, is able to achieve equality and is protected from persecution. The first post-war international treaty to protect minorities, designed to protect them from the greatest threat to their existence, was the U.N.Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
Subsequent human rights standards that codify minority rights include the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Pakistan signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 2008 and ratified it with reservations in 2010. But when European Union emissaries had warned Pakistan to be deprived of Generalised System of Preferances plus status of grant of trade benefits accorded by EU which in other words means ban on Pakistani exports, then in 2011, the Pakistan government, withdrew almost all of the reservations. Hence, since July 2011, Pakistan has ratified the ICCPR almost entirely committing itself to upholding the civil and political rights of its citizens including citizens belonging to minority commujity.
In Article 18 of the ICCPR is the guaranteed freedom of thought, conscience and religion. The right to religion includes the freedom to adopt and profess in public or private, freedom of worship and unfettered right to believe and manifest one’s religion accordingly. Article 19 goes further and says that everyone shall have the right to his or her opinions without interference. Article 20 of the ICCPR forbids any advocacy of religious hatred.
The freedom to profess one’s religion is integral to the ICCPR and therefore any law that abridges that freedom is in violation of and in contradiction to Pakistan’s international commitment
All of the aforesaid have been placed in the non-Muslim category under Article 260 of the Constitution of Pakistan.
The human rights watch noted that the condition of religious minorities deteriorated sharply in Pakistan in 2012, with the government unwilling or unable to provide protection against attacks by extremists.
Christians, Sikhs, Hindus and other minorities throughout Pakistan recount numerous horrific incidents of attacks and threats and express an overwhelming sense of fear. Minority Rights Group International, a watchdog organization, had ranked Pakistan as ‘the world’s top country for major increases in threats to minorities since 2007’. The group also lists Pakistan as seventh on the list of 10 most dangerous countries for minorities, after Somalia, Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Myanmar and Congo.
In Sindh, Hindu women are being abducted and forcibly converted to Islam. Many Christians are suffering under the blasphemy law, a law which itself is in contradiction to the ICCPR. Churches, temples and other places of worship are routinely destroyed..
And attacks on Christians at Shanti Nagar, Gojra, Sialkot, Badmi Bagh, and the attack on a Peshawar church being self-evident as to the increasing religious intolerance against minorities by the state and society.
The U.S. Commission on Religious Freedom said in a recent report that conditions in Pakistan had “hit an all-time low” and governments had failed to adequately protect minorities and arrest perpetrators of crimes against them.
Scores of Christian girls like 11 years Amriah Masih and12 years Muqadas Kainat,even 6 years Hindu girl Viginti Meghwar ,Kakoo Kolhen,14 years Manishsa Kumari and others were gang raped but their culprits have never been brought to book.
The guarantees of freedom of religious beliefs accorded to minorities under ICCPR are also violated by kidnapping minority girls and forcibly converting them to Islam.
According to a report published in Pakistan Today on 8 April 2014, around 1,000 Christian and Hindu women in Pakistan are forcibly converted to Islam and married to Muslim men every year..
The report states the estimates of the incidence of forced marriage and conversion of 700 victim Christian girls and 300 Hindu girls per year, adding that the true scale of the problem is likely to be much greater, as a number of cases are never reported or do not progress through the law-enforcement and legal systems.
In first 5 months of 2014, as many as 6 Hindu temples were ransacked:Dharamshala at Larkaha, was set on fire on March 13, Hanuman Mandir at Hyderabad on March 17,, Parbraham Ashram at Mith on March 30, Shri Guru Garanth Saheb at Madeji district Shikarpur and burning of Hindu holy book Bhagwat Geeta.
It is fact that religious minorities of Pakistan have contributed in independence of Pakistan and anthem of Pakistan is written by Hindu Poet. Hate speeches in Text Books and less marks in special subjects are major issues facing minorities• In a speech Quid Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnahon August 11, 1947 said. “You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed — that has nothing to do with the business of the State… We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State… I think we should keep that in front of us as our ideal and you will find that in due course Hindus would cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State.”
The attacks on templels have compelled Hindus to leave Pakistan and accoring to figure presented in NA by a minority law maker during the months of March and April 2014 as many as 10,000 Hindus have migrated to India.
South Asia Partnership Pakistan had organized Follow up of Media Consultation at Regent Plaza Karachi on 18 June 2014. The main objectives of Follow up meeting are to consult the electronic a print media of Karachi about establishment of minority rights Commission and protection of religious minorities in Sindh.
After demand for formation of Minority Rights Commission the chief jusice Pakistan Justice Tasaduq Hussain Jeelani ordered for formation of minority rights commission during the hearing of attacks on temples case on June 4,2014.
On ordedrs of chief justice Pakistan, government has notified formation of commission at federal level but same is still awaited at provincial level.
To sum up Pakistan is in complete and total violation of its international obligations of religious freedom, civil and political rights which can jeopardise the status of grant of trade benefits to Pakistan under the GSP Plus Scheme of the European Union.