- Say people should come on top irrespective of religion
LAHORE: Experts and academics on Thursday called for the abolition of minority wings in political parties, saying that the party seats should be given on merit rather than on reserved quotas.
These views were expressed during a consultative session organised by Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) on political parties’ manifestos and the fundamental rights of religious minorities in Pakistan. The session was attended by human rights activists Cecil Chaudhary and Usman Khilji; academics Dr Khawaja Alqama and Dr Yaqoob Bangash; Pakistan People’s Party’s (PPP) Qamar Zaman Kaira; Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) member of Punjab Assembly, Shunila Ruth; Jamaat-e-Islami’s (JI) Asadullah Bhutto; Awami National Party’s (ANP) Bushra Gohar; and Balochistan National Party’s (BNP) Shah Khurshid Shah.
They criticised political parties for sidelining the minorities when it comes to decision-making and policy formation. They further called for the abolition of minority wings in political parties, saying that religion shouldn’t be taken into account during the intra-party elections in order to ensure that parties could eventually extend this system to the entire country.
The participants criticised the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and PTI for sticking to status quo instead of taking a “strong” stance in support of minorities in manifestoes and questioned the purpose of minority wing in the parties. To which, PTI’s Ruth replied if minorities are not given representation no one will stand up for them.
“When an issue related to minorities is being discussed in assemblies, only members from the minority communities speak up; people belonging to majority religion never speak up for our rights so it is pertinent that we have minority wing,” she said. “If we don’t have representation, we will disappear,” she added.
The PTI leader further claimed that during intra-party elections religious minorities are given equal opportunities.
When asked by HRCP Chairperson Dr Mehdi Hassan if the religious minorities are given equal opportunities how many members belonging to minority religions are in the party, Ruth said that people of her community [Christians] are not qualified enough and educated people don’t want to join politics.
“Christians have been deprived of their basic rights for far too long in this country,” she added.
Assadullah Bhutto was of the view that JI has always worked for the rights of the minorities, despite being a party based on religious ideology. Responding to a question pertaining to political participation of Ahmedis, the JI leader said that we will work for them only if they declare themselves non-Muslims.
The leaders of BNP and ANP said they are in favour of a secular country, and their parties don’t have minority wings. Deserving people should come on the top regardless of their religion, they added.
PPP’s Kaira, defending his party’s position on minorities, said that their party since its formation has also battled for its survival due to which they had to make some compromises, be it with the army or judiciary.
“When you are fighting a battle for survival, you have to compromise mainly due to fear and because of this we haven’t been able to meet the expectations associated by people to a liberal left party,” he admitted.
In concluding note, Dr Mehdi condemned the distortion of history in favour of one religion and radicalisation of religion.