Islamabad - It’s the right time to take concrete steps to build social harmony between Muslims and minority citizens and for this purpose political parties should issue tickets to minority candidates on general seats where they have significant population.

This was crux of a consultative workshop held in a local hotel on Wednesday and organised by Pattan Development Organization with the aim to highlight issues of minorities and giving a way forward for social cohesion in the country.

During the consultative workshop a demand came that there should be direct elections for religious minorities.  The participants said that there were 98 National Assembly constituencies which had significant number of minority votes in Pakistan. It was agreed that the solution to the issues of minorities should be found out through political processes, so that the minorities throughout Pakistan could have enabling environment and experience greater freedom with respect to all other rights.  The participants said that except one party, all major parties marginalised minorities by establishing minority wings and there was no representation of minority community in executive councils, core committees, or highest level decision making bodies within the structure of political parties. They argued that their absence from party hierarchies was also affecting their political representation. Thus political parties must mainstream minorities.  A Charter of Demands was shared amongst all stakeholders in which they demanded to conduct an evaluation of the 6th Census (religion & transgender and disability columns), to sensitise police and court officials about the rights of minorities and to mainstream minorities in political parties structures.

 

It demanded to enhance of harmony between majority and minorities by addressing root causes of oppression. The charter demanded separation of minority ministry from the ministry of religious affairs. It said that the chairperson of the Evacuee Trust board should be from minorities.

The demand was raised for the implementation of job quota in letter and spirit and to divide job quota equally between men and women.

It was also said that NADRA and ECP must launch a special campaign to register religious minorities. The government should ensure the provision of basic facilities like clean drinking water etc. Sensitization of school faculty and ministerial staff on minimizing the discrimination minorities’ face in schools is also essential.

The charter asked for wages to sanitary workers performing duties on Muslim festivals and public holidays. District governments must eliminate risks and hazards that cause harm to minorities.

The participating MPs also assured to take up these issues on the floor of the parliament and will make legislative interventions for their demands.

The participants included members of the National Assembly, civil society organisations (CSOs), lawyers, women councillors, government officials, and media representatives.