After six years since the landmark Supreme Court ruling which determined the need for a minorities body, the government is close to tabling a bill which intends to form a National Council for Minorities, which will be presented before parliament for further action. The draft bill, which stipulates that all members of the council should be non-Muslims, will give a sense of ownership over their own fate to the religious minorities who for a long time have lived under fear of persecution.

This legislation suggests that it will prove significant in not only protecting but also promoting the social, political and economic rights of the religious minorities. As a result, it also stands to stabilise the political foundations of the state. The treatment of minorities in Pakistan has always been a controversial issue, but with a body that consists of members from within these groups, they can help the state understand exactly what is needed to offer greater protection from abuse.

This bill answers the longstanding call of minorities who wanted the state to legislate to prevent discrimination in employment, education and society, and the elimination of hate material in books. If approved by the parliament, this legislation will strengthen the legal framework that guarantees fundamental rights to the minorities living in the country.

While this is sorely needed, the state still needs to go a long way in ensuring that minorities are not treated as second-class citizens. The bill is a reminder to all of us that human rights belong to all in a given society. Hopefully, the parliament will pass the proposed piece of legislation so that the National Council for Minorities can start working without further delay.