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MRG Statement on National Minorities’ Day – Pakistan

11 August 2020

Minority Rights Group International (MRG) appreciates the designation of 11th August as National Minorities’ Day in Pakistan (2009) and regards this move as a reflection that despite being faced with a number of challenges the state of Pakistan aspires to commemorate the contribution of minorities in the progress of Pakistan and to uphold minority rights. This move embodies the vision of Quaid-e-Azam that he presented in his inaugural address to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan in 1947.

While appreciating the aspiration of multi-religious coexistence reflected in the commemoration of this day, MRG is conscious that the crisis of religious discrimination continues in, private and public sectors, and is even manifested in some areas of government, even during the Covid-19 Pandemic. There have been reports of continuing acts of intolerance and violence based on religion or belief against individuals and whole communities, including against persons belonging to religious communities and religious minorities.  MRG has solid evidence of continuing social discrimination on the basis of religion and belief, which impacts heavily on the day to day lives of those affected.  The repeated issuing of job adverts limiting certain low paid and low skilled jobs to religious minorities is just one example of this daily reality.  MRG is concerned about online and offline hate speech on the basis of religion or belief as well as ways in which discrimination prevents equality of opportunity in education, jobs, business and ultimately re-entrenches poverty for many. These challenges overshadow the positive moves taken by Pakistan which include opening the Kartapur corridor and planning the building of a Hindu temple in Islamabad.

Acknowledging the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan, including religious freedom and equality among its citizens guaranteed under the articles 20 and 25 of the Constitution. Recalling the obligations of Pakistan under international human rights law, and treaties Pakistan is a state party to, which requires to ensure non-discrimination and equality in Pakistan. MRG calls on the government of Pakistan (at both Federal and Provincial levels) to pay comprehensive attention to the challenges yet faced by the religious minorities, and ensure that continuous progressive moves are made to move towards equality and inclusion, a Pakistan for all its citizens, to improve Pakistan’s compliance with its international Treaty obligations and commitments.

  1. Introduce adequate, effective and mandatory safeguards for the protection of rights, freedoms and interests of minorities. Include minorities, with special attention on minority women in the national mainstream in all tiers of governance and decision making.
  2. Comprehensively implement in letter and spirit, the judgment of the Supreme Court of Pakistan delivered on 19 June 2014, without further delay.
  3. Educate the masses including public and private sectors on issues of concern, mobilize political will and resources to address all forms of religious discrimination, and across the board reinforce human rights principles of non-discrimination and equality.
  4. Ensure an open, constructive and respectful debate of ideas, as well as interreligious, interfaith and intercultural dialogue is initiated at the local and national levels, in order to play a positive role in combating religious hatred, incitement and violence.
  5. Combat religious intolerance through the exercise of the right to freedom of opinion and expression and full respect for the freedom to seek, receive and impart information.
  6. Take bold steps to introduce comprehensive anti-discrimination measures, legislative, policy and administrative initiatives to protect and promote the human rights of religious minorities, including minority women and girls who often become victims of abduction, rape, forced religious conversion and marriage (under age).
  7. Reaffirm unequivocal condemnation of all acts, methods and practices of religious intolerance, in all its forms and manifestations, wherever and by whomsoever committed, regardless of their motivation.