The Sindh Assembly passed on Thursday a law to establish the Sindh Minorities Rights Commission, which will be the driving force to resolve the human rights issues faced by minority communities in Sindh.
The private bill, titled ‘Establishment of Sindh Minorities Rights Commission 2015’, was tabled by Pakistan Muslim League – Functional (PML-F) parliamentary leader Nand Kumar, but was referred to standing committee on minorities in January, this year, for deliberation on the issue. After clause by clause consideration and a certain amendments by committee members, the bill was sent back to the assembly and subsequently passed unanimously.
“It will provide a platform to look into the various grievances of minority communities and to monitor and suggest the mechanism for accelerating pace of socio-economic development and protect the identity of minorities at provincial level,” said Kumar, adding that the bill will also reiterate the values of religious harmony, tolerance, respect and peace, which were inherent in the creation of Pakistan.
The bill also referred the landmark judgment of Supreme Court on 19 June, 2014, which said, “It is felt that there should be a Minorities’ Rights Commission at national and provincial level.”
According to the law, the commission will consist of 11 members (who will be nominated by the Sindh government) having knowledge and seven years of practical experience in the matters of minorities’ rights and human rights in general. “Six members including the chairperson shall be from among the minorities’ community,” the law states.
Regarding the members, the bill said that at least 33% of the commission will consist of female members belonging to all ethnic and religious groups from non-Muslims communities. “The government through public notice will invite suggestions from suitable persons for the appointment of chairperson,” states the law. “The members of the commission after proper scrutiny will appoint their head for the period of four years.”
Regarding functions of the commission, the law states that the issues of the minorities will be reviewed and the commission will suggest the repeal or amendment in existing laws or new law to eliminate discrimination and safeguard and promote the interest and welfare of non-Muslims.
“It will also sponsor, steer [and] encourage research to generate information [and] analysis and maintain database relating to minorities,” said the salient features of the bill, adding that the commission will also call the reports of various government departments and institutions while inquiring into complaints of violation of rights of minorities.
The commission while inquiring into the complaints under this law shall have the powers of a civil court trying a suit under civil procedure to summon and enforce the attendance of witnesses and examining them on oath.
According to the law, the statement recoded by the commission shall have status of Section 164 of Code of Criminal Procedure (CRPC) and every proceeding be deemed to be judicial proceeding for the purpose of Section 195 [of] CRPC, which says: “The prosecution for contempt of lawful authority of public servant, for offence against public justice or offences relating to documents given as evidence.”
For the speedy trial of human rights offences against the minority communities, the Sindh government may in consultation with the Chief Justice of Sindh High Court (SHC) by notification in the official gazette, specify a court of sessions to be the ‘Human Rights Court’ for the district to try such offences.
Though the bill pertaining to forced conversion of minorities was also on the agenda, it was deferred till next private day, which will fall on November 22.
Sindh Assembly also passed a resolution directing the education department to take appropriate action to include learning of the Holy Quran as part of the education curriculum.