ISLAMABAD - The Senate yesterday for the first time in the country's parliamentary history formed a special house committee to propose reforms package for the uplift of marginalized segments of society, including vulnerable children, women, handicapped, transgender and minorities.

The house also approved terms of reference (ToRs) for the house committee as suggested by Chairman Senate Mian Raza Rabbani after lengthy discussion of two hours and 43 minutes on the problems being faced by the marginalized segments of the country.

The twenty lawmakers taking part in the debate, which was initiated on a proposal of Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed, urged the government to make efforts for bringing downtrodden classes of society into the mainstream. The lawmakers also said that people of the Kalash valley, sex workers, internally displaced persons (IDPs), transgender, minorities, children without parents, nomads, people of scheduled castes, domestic workers and certain ethnic groups were part of the marginalized segments of the society besides vulnerable children, disabled persons and women.

Under the ToRs adopted by the house, the committee that will be comprised of members from both sides of isle with the input of Leader of the House and Leader of the Opposition in the Senate will contact and maintain liaison with those organizations that are already working for the marginalized segments. It will also review the existing laws and suggests amendments into these and see whether new legislations would be needed to give due rights to the marginalized communities.

The special house committee would look into whether allocated quota for the government's jobs for the people of such communities was being observed or not. The committee would make efforts to reactivate and streamline the working of the intuitions like National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) and National Commission on Human Rights (NCHR, established under an act of the parliament, to work for the uplift of such communities. It will recommend ways to avoid duplication work of these institutions. The chair said that the committee would present its report to the house after every two months.

Earlier, lawmakers taking part in the debate urged the house to form the special committee and give a plan of action and way forward to the government to bring the people of oppressed classes at par with other segments of the society. Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed said that the killings of eunuchs in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the forced conversion of religion by the people of Kalash valley were incidents that were damaging the ethnic and cultural diversity of the society. He said that internally displaced people (IDPs), sex workers were also among the marginalized communities. "Five to ten percent of Pakistan's community belonged to marginalized community," he said adding that the there was a total neglect of the state on this part. He asked the chair that special committee should give plan of action in this connection. PPP Senator Karim Ahmed Khawaja urged the need to make legislations to protect rights of transgender including their right of their property, right of burial, marriage and of registration through NADRA.

A minority Gayan Chand pointed out towards the down trodden scheduled castes people of Hindu community living in Sindh and demanded for the allocation jobs' quota for the people of marginalized communities including of scheduled castes. "Rights should also be given to nomads," he said.  MQM legislator Tahir Hussain Mashhadi made an emotional speech on the rights of marginalized communities that was applauded by other lawmakers by thumping desks. At one point, he tried to give the impression that perhaps his party was being marginalized in Karachi. His party colleague Senator Nasreen Jalil also endorsed his point of view.

Senator Abdul Qayyum said that according to an assessment report, 30 million people in Pakistan were handicapped. He suggested for the introduction of Abdus Sattar Edhi Award to acknowledge the services of people in social sector. Robina Irfan, a lawmaker from Balochistan said that some ethnic groups such as Zikris and Parsi were also oppressed classes and they need to be protected as they were fleeing the country due to fear.

At one time when neither the Leader of the House Raja Zafarul Haq nor any minister were present in the house to hear the debate, the chair said, "It will be like living in a fool's paradise that the government would form a commission for the uplift of marginalized segments."

 Later concluding the debate Chairman Senate said, "The real purpose of the discussion was to highlight that the Senate stands by the people of oppressed communities. We understand that problem would not be resolved with this but this is a wakeup call for the society."