Pakistan’s Supreme Court has taken one more step in the right direction to safeguard the rights of religious minorities. The apex court has ordered to constitute a special bench for the implementation of its 2014 judgment on the protection of minority rights and the promotion of a culture of religious and social tolerance. Pakistan is, unlike India where religious minorities particularly Muslims are being targeted on the basis of their faith, on its way to become an inclusive polity where everyone irrespective of the color of skin or faith is entitled to fundamental constitutional rights.
The state of Pakistan is sometimes accused of harboring extremists who attack religious minorities in the country under the pretexts of blasphemy. But for the last many years the judiciary has been vocal and upright about the rights and protection of worship places of citizens belonging to any religion. In many instances, the superior judiciary has established that personal enmities are often the base for initiating socio-political or politico-legal campaigns against the religious minorities.
A. Why did it take 5 years for the bench to be formulated?
B. Have our legislative and executive authorities made substantial progress when it comes to minority rights in Pakistan?
C. Why does the onus always lie on the judiciary to act as a watchdog?
— Shanza Faiq (@Shanzaf) October 4, 2019
Asia Bibi, a Christian woman, was accused of blasphemy by a group of Muslim women. After many years, the SC took up her matter and acquitted her because the prosecution had failed to prove the allegations against her beyond a reasonable doubt. The decision was lauded across the world since Pakistan’s top court did not succumb to social pressure built up by religiously conservative groups.
In the latest case, a three-judge Supreme Court bench, headed by Justice Umar Ata Bandial, referred the matter to Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa for his consideration to constitute the implementation bench.
Justice Bandial observed that the Kartarpur Corridor was a huge development, adding that everybody had the right to worship as per their religion.
The SC bench had taken up a case relating to the rights of minorities and asked the federal and provincial governments to furnish before the court monthly reports highlighting steps taken to ensure the rights of the minorities. In 2014, then chief justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani, took up the matter of religious minorities and their constitutional rights while hearing a suo moto after unfortunate Peshawar church bomb attack in which 81 persons died.
The SC bench had ordered its court office to open a separate file to be placed before a three-judge bench for ensuring that the judgment was given effect to in letter and spirit. The bench will be free to entertain complaints or petitions related to violation of the fundamental rights of minorities in the country.
Moreover, the verdict had asked the federal government to ensure that hate speech on social media was discouraged and delinquents were brought to justice.
A three-judge bench referred the matter to Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa for his consideration to constitute the implementation bench.https://t.co/SD5AbzbUqI
— Dawn.com (@dawn_com) October 4, 2019
It asked for the constitution of a national council for minority rights which should be tasked with monitoring the practical realization of the rights and safeguards provided to the minorities under the Constitution and the law.
On Thursday, PTI leader Dr. Ramesh Kumar Vankwani informed the apex court that none amongst the minorities had been appointed the chairman of the Evacuee Trust Property Board, contrary to earlier directives of the court, adding that still, 15 to 23 members of the ETPB were Muslim.
The court, however, told Dr. Vankwani that being in the government he should have fulfilled the demands through the government. Dr. Vankwani is one of the senior minority members of the ruling party, therefore, he is expected to make a difference with regard to the implementation of laws concerning minorities and their rights.
Justice Bandial observed that the Kartarpur Corridor was a huge development, adding that everybody had the right to worship as per their religion. Pakistan has decided to facilitate the Sikh community from across the border by opening up a corridor so that the devotees of Guru Nanak may visit the place without many bureaucratic barriers as happens in the ordinary course of events.