PESHAWAR - Speakers at a consultation meeting with parliamentarians have demanded replacement of Islamiat compulsory subject with Deniyat (Theology) for non-Muslims in educational institutions.

They made the demand during the session, titled, “Religious Freedom and Minority Rights” organised by South Asia Partnership of Pakistan (SAP-Pk) held here on Monday. They said that minorities were also Pakistanis and they must be treated on the basis of equality.

Those spoke included Harun Sarb Diyal, Chairman of All Pakistan Hindu Rights Movement (APHRM), Redesh Singh Tony, Chairman Sikh Community of Pakistan (Peshawar, Augston Jacob of Christian community, Haji Jalil Jan, Secretary Information of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), Provincial Legislators Shaukat Yousafzai, Sardar Hussain of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) from Chitral and a senior journalist Shamim Shahid.

Harun Diyal said the constitution of Pakistan has defined rights of non-Muslims but lamented that no implementation was being made and that was why they were facing different problems.

He said their property, including lands and temples etc had been grabbed either by influential people or government in the name of archaeology and commercial purposes, which was an injustice with community because a large number of Hindus are still living in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

“We did not migrate to India during partition as this the land of our forefathers and we want to live here in Pakistan,” he explained and added that being Pakistanis they deserved all rights.   

Criticising the policy-making institutions, he said they were not consulted when policy regarding minorities was devised and they were kept deprived of their basic human rights.    

Regarding quota system in jobs and selection of MPA and MNA from minorities, Harun appreciated the government of Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) for increasing jobs quota to 3 per cent and demanded increase in it to 5 percent. He said that system of elections instead of selection be made for non-Muslims so that the elected representatives could raise voice of the communities in befitting manners.       

Radesh Tony shared his views about issues of Sikh community and said people of his community were being targeted for the last some months and several of them migrated while the Sikh’s representative in the provincial assembly Sardar Suran Singh was playing the role of a silent spectator over the ordeal of community.  “The PTI-led provincial government should take steps to resolve problems of Sikhs,” he demanded.

Endorsing the demands of non-Muslims, Augston Jacob said they were also Pakistanis and had the right to live, worship and express their will freely.

MPA Sardar Hussain said that Islam teaches peace, harmony and brotherhood and there is no force marriage and conversion into another religion. He maintained that the legislators of minorities did not raise voice for the rights of their communities on the assembly floor.

Condemning target killings, MPA Shaukat Yousafzai said terrorism in any form was condemnable. He added that the Muslims have also been facing worst situation of its kind for the last 68 years. He urged that same rights should be given to all minorities. He said that people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were closely watching the performance of the PTI’s government and if it did not deliver like the previous governments, they would reject it too.

Shamim Shahid and Shahida Shah of SAP appreciated the KP government and MPAs belonging to other political parties for presenting a Bill in the assembly and expressed the hope for passing it soon.  Saman Ara gave a detailed presentation in this regard.