ISLAMABAD        -           A constitutional bill for establishing the National Council for Minorities is all set to be presented before the Parliament, it was learnt yesterday through reliable sources.

“There shall be a National Council for Minorities to advance the practical realization of the rights and safeguards provided to the minorities under the Constitution,” the draft bill available with The Nation stated.

The Council shall be headed by Chairperson, to be appointed by the President of Pakistan on the advice of the Prime Minister.

First time in the national history, the chairperson and all members would belong to the non-Muslim minority community. The council shall have a representation from Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis, Kalash, Bahais, Ahmadis and Buddhists; and provided further that one-third of the members of the Commission shall be women.

The purpose of this bill is practical realization of the rights of the minorities guaranteed under the Constitution and the laws of Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The establishment of the National Council for Minorities shall address the inadequacies in the existing mechanisms and act as a vanguard for the protection of minority rights.

The Council shall, while inquiring into complaints under this Act, have all the powers of a civil court trying a suit under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (Act V of 1908). Members shall be Justices of Peace in accordance with section 22 and section 22-A of the Code of Criminal Procedure Code, 1898.

The council will closely work with the federal and provincial textbook boards with an aim of ensuring that any discriminatory, hate material or other divisive content is removed from text books in both private and public educational institutions, including madrassas, schools, colleges, universities, technical and vocational institutes. The council will ensure and monitor implementation of minorities job quota in private and public sector organizations.

The bill also has the provision for the Minority Rights Courts, saying that the government shall, in consultation with respective Chief Justices of High Courts, by notification in the official Gazette, specify a Court of Sessions as a special Minority Rights Court for each district or a group of districts for speedy trial of offences by or relating to minorities or arising out of violation of minority rights.