UNITED NATIONS - A senior Pakistani lawmaker told a meeting of parliamentarians from around the world that violence against minorities in Pakistan was a “burning issue”, and urged the international community to support Islamabad’s efforts to curb it.

Senator Farooq Naek, a member of the Pakistan parliamentary delegation to the ongoing joint hearing of Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and the UN General Assembly, said that much of the violence was the result of the rise of Taliban extremists and that efforts were being made for the effective implementation of laws protecting minority rights.

Naek, a former chairman of the Senate, said the country’s constitution guarantees equal rights for all its citizens without discrimination on the basis of caste, colour, sex, race or religion.

He was responding to a question from the chairperson of a IPU-UN panel on “Inequality and Discrimination” about a series of attacks against members of the minority communities in Pakistan.

He said that terrorists were responsible for the murder, among others, of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer and Federal Minister Shahbaz Bhatti who were advocating minority rights.

Other factors such as inequality in income levels also contributed to the problem, Naek told the panel as he called for reviewing non-discriminatory laws. Parliament must ensure non-discriminatory laws and their implementation effectively, and laws that have direct impact on social welfare of the people must be legislated with care.

Senator Naek spoke about the steps taken by Pakistan for the promotion and protection of women’s rights in political, economic, social and cultural spheres.

Concrete measures have been taken to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women, he said. Women have reserved seats in the National Assembly as well as in the Senate. There is range of legislations against acid crimes, anti-women practices, harassment of women at workplace, and domestic violence.

Stressing the need to spread education, Naek said an educated mother plays a key role in building the society. “An educated mother is a blessing,” he said.

Senator Naek also underscored the need for holistic approach to tackling inequality in the post-2012 Development Agenda.

The elements he proposed include: Reforming the rules for international trade, finance, business accounting and intellectual property to ensure consistency with the achievement of sustainable development goals; Increasing cross-border movement of skilled professionals from developing to developed countries; Enhancing people’s resilience notably to disaster, and violence; Increasing the share of industrial sector in the GDP of developing countries; Ensuring universal quality primary education; Enhancing access to medicines and vaccines for preventable disease; Promoting the coverage of targeted cash transfers; and Enhancing investment in social and economic infrastructure to reduce imbalance between developed and underdeveloped regions.

Meanwhile, Senate Chairman Syed Nayyer Hussain Bokhari, who is leading Pakistan’s parliamentary delegation to the annual Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and the UN General Assembly, called on world parliamentarians to raise their voice for the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, including statehood.

Speaking in his capacity as president of the Asian Parliamentary Assembly, he also stressed the need for resumption of Israel-Palestinian peace talks, but said Israel was obstructing the process.

“Creating the right atmosphere for dialogue is imperative to moving towards the objective of attaining a peaceful resolution for this long festering dispute,” Bokhari told the International Meeting of Parliamentarians in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace on the sideline of the hearing. “Israeli illegal activities are eating away at attainment of this objective.”

In this context, he emphasised that dialogue should be based on the agreed international parameters and have clear timelines and benchmarks.

Calling for the protecting of Palestinians’ rights, he said the parliaments of Sweden, France and the United Kingdom have shown the way. “By adopting a proactive approach, we would be supporting Palestinians in their long drawn battle for respect for international law and for their inalienable rights.”

Speaking in his national capacity, the Senate chairman said Pakistan has all along fully supported the Palestinians’ cause.

“We believe that the only viable and sustainable solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict lies through the creation of an independent, viable and contiguous State of Palestine, based on pre-1967 borders, with Al-Quds-Al-Sharif as its capital,” he said parliamentarians from around the world.

“The Parliament of Pakistan, in line with the aspirations of its people, has consistently and equivocally supported the just cause of the Palestinian people,” he said. The Pakistani government and the people strongly protested the brutal murders of Palestinians, saying, “It was shameful that the international community helplessly witnessed the carnage of unarmed Palestinians.”

Pakistan, he said, also strongly condemns the recent Israeli actions in Al-Quds-Al-Sharif. The closing of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, denying worshippers access to pray and storming of the mosque by occupation soldiers and settlers was unacceptable. The inviolability and sanctity of all holy places in East-Jerusalem must be maintained.

Continuing actions by the occupation forces, in blatant disregard of international human rights and humanitarian law, its continued illegal settlement activity, the blockade of Gaza, the detention, and the construction of the wall, were further worsening the already atrocious living conditions of the Palestinian people, he said. “Their rights are being decimated on a daily basis and they have no recourse to justice and the rule of law.”