–Says commission should be independent statutory body with full administrative and financial autonomy
ISLAMABAD: Dr Shoaib Suddle, who is a part of the one-man commission on minorities rights formed by the Supreme Court for implementation of its 2014 verdict, on Thursday challenged the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony’s move to reconstitute an existing National Commission for Minorities (NCM) without statutory powers and financial autonomy.
On June 16, 2014, the court ordered the government to form a national council for minorities. “The function of the said council should inter alia be to monitor the practical realisation of the rights and safeguards provided to the minorities under the Constitution and law. The Council should also be mandated to frame policy recommendations for safeguarding and protecting minorities rights by the provincial and federal government,” the order read.
The petition filed by the commission’s registrar, Abdullah Shah, on Thursday stated that the commission has constantly been facing “defiance and non-cooperation from the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony”.
The commission recently found out that the ministry moved a summary for the cabinet to reconstitute an existing National Commission for Minorities, the petition read. “It did not consult the commission in defiance of the court’s October 3, 2019 order.”
The body proposed by the MORA violates the commitment made before the court. “It does not have a statutory backing and its very existence and composition would be at the whims and mercy of MORA,” it pointed out.
“Since its claimed existence there is nothing on record to show that it did anything of note in relation to the rights of the minorities. In fact, minority communities are not even aware of the existence of such a body.”
The petition added, “There is a wider consensus among minority leaders and groups that the National Council for Minorities should be an independent statutory body with full administrative and financial autonomy”.
He asked the court to withdraw the notification and take the one-man commission into confidence before the formation of such a national commission.
MINORITIES REJECT NCM:
Meanwhile, different human rights organisations, legal experts, educationists and civil society members have also rejected the National Commission for Minorities approved by the federal cabinet on May 5.
Addressing a press conference in Lahore, People’s Commission for Minority Rights Chairman Peter Jacob said the Ministry of Religious Affairs on February 19, told the SC that the commission will be formed through an act of parliament.
“However, the government has approved its formation through the federal cabinet. This is in violation of the SC order and is tantamount to contempt of court. We will challenge the cabinet decision in the apex court,” he said.
United Nations former special representative on human rights defenders Hina Gilani and National Commission for Status of Women former chairman Khawar Mumtaz said an effective commission on minority rights could only be formed if it is constituted like other such commissions.
An ad hoc council sans any authority would be of little use, they said.
Dr Yaqoob Bangash said such ad hoc council was first formed through a resolution of the federal cabinet in 1990. “Such councils have been formed time and again but none of them have survived more than a year,” he said.