Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf terming minorities as an integral part of the Pakistani society said the government was considering promulgation of personal laws for them including the separate marriage and divorce bills for Christians and Hindus.

Addressing at a function to mark International Human Rights Day at the Prime Minister Secretariat here in Islamabad, Prime Minister Ashraf said the step would fulfill a longstanding demand and bring them at par with the Muslim citizens of the state. The event to commemorate the passage of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 by the United Nations’ General Assembly, was attended by federal ministers, parliamentarians, ambassadors, representatives of UN Agencies, non-governmental organizations and human rights activists.

The Prime Minister said minorities had played an important role in the development of the country. He mentioned that the government had increased the number of seats for minorities in Senate besides fixing a quota in civil services.

He said Pakistan’s role in protecting human rights had been recognized globally and said Pakistan had been elected a member of the UN Human Rights Council for three years, with 171 countries out of 191 supporting its membership.

He termed this a recognition of the government’s efforts to further the cause of human rights in Pakistan as well as of its standing in the comity of nations.

He said the government was considering the appointment of Human Rights Defenders under the Ministry of Human Rights.

Prime Minister Raja Ashraf said Pakistan would continue fighting war against terrorism to secure the future of its children.

“We will never accept the narrow-minded and bigoted agenda of extremists,” he said and urged the people of Pakistan to join hands with the government and the civil society for promotion of human rights.

He reiterated the government’s commitment to create an environment conducive to peace, democracy and human rights in the country.

Prime Minister Ashraf interlinking democracy and peace said the road to durable peace was paved by representative and effective democratic institutions.

“Our tenure is a story of struggle for democracy, nurturing of institutions, upholding of rights of the marginalized sections of society and fight against non-state elements who threaten the life and property of our citizens,” the Prime Minister said.

The Prime Minister said, “We lost our beloved leader, Shaheed Mohtrama Benazir Bhutto, and thousands of our soldiers, policemen, law-enforcement personnel and civilians in this fight.”

Prime Minister Raja Ashraf said Islam considers human rights sacrosanct and accords it top priority. The Charter of Madina presented by the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) stipulated equal political, cultural and religious rights to the non-Muslims, he added.

Prime Minister Ashraf said the last sermon of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) is a complete charter of human rights.

He also cited the Holy Quran that clearly mentions human rights and makes their observance binding upon the Muslims.

The Prime Minister said the Muslims learnt the lesson of egalitarianism and human rights 1400 years ago.

Prime Minister Ashraf said the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights was a comprehensive document and a solemn expression of the world’s commitment to secure the fundamental rights of all individuals irrespective of any discrimination.

He said the day serves as a symbol for the protection of life, dignity, liberty, honour and security of each person living on this planet.

The Prime Minister said the Constitution of Pakistan guarantees fundamental rights to its citizens, which are justiciable and guaranteed. He said human rights were an essential component of public policy of the government which has put in place mechanisms for their advancement.

Prime Minister Ashraf said the way the whole nation came together in support of Malala Yousafzai reflects the national consensus and the will of the nation to protect its values, culture, and way of life.

This antidote against extremist mindset provides continuity and stability to democratic institutions, he added.

The Prime Minister was fully aware of its international obligations. He said Pakistan has already ratified seven out of nine core Human Rights Conventions. Four of these Conventions and one Optional Protocol were ratified during the tenure of the present government, he added.

These include International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Optional Protocol to the UNCRC on Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography.

The Prime Minister said the government was guided by the vision of Shaheeed Mohtarama Benazir Bhutto, a powerful voice for women empowerment.

“We are committed to carry forward her legacy and work towards women emancipation. This government has made progressive legislation for the protection of the rights of women, children, minorities and marginalized sections of society,” he said.

He also mentioned the amendments made to Frontier Crimes Regulation to uphold the rule of law in FATA and tribal areas.

Prime Minister Ashraf said it goes to the credit of the present parliament that it passed; The Protection Against Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act 2010, Women in Distress and Detention Fund Act, 2011, The National Commission on the Status of Women Act, 2012, and The National Commission for Human Rights Act, 2012.

UN’s Resident Coordinator Timo Pakkala in his speech lauded Pakistan’s effort to ensure human rights in the country. He said the government and people of Pakistan should be proud of the legislation done on human rights and protecting rights of women.

Prime Minister’s Advisor on Human Rights, Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar said the government of Pakistan was carrying forward the agenda of ensuring human rights on priority.

He called upon the social and government institutions, media and ministries to join hands on this subject.

Later the Prime Minister gave away awards to the persons who made significant contribution in the field of human rights. The awardees include Justice (retd) Majida Rizvi, Late Syed Iqbal Haider Advocate, Advocate Naeem, Provincial Minister KPK on Social Welfare Sitara Ayaz, Provincial Information Minister KPK Mian Iftikhar, Justice (retd) Mehta Kailash Nath Kohli, Political activist Rukhsana Ahmad, Human rights activist Dr Tahira Kamal, Journalist Narjis Zaidi, educationist Rasheed Javed, human rights activists Noor Mohammad, Yasmeen Karim, Zaibunnisa Maqsood, and Kainat and Shazia who were attacked in Swat. Earlier, children presented tableaus on the topic related to human rights.