Civil society activists call for equal rights for minorities

Announce first ‘Minority Rights March’ to be held on 11th

Illustration by Faraz Aamer Khan/

KARACHI: Minority rights in Pakistan has been a matter of concern and subject of discussion for many years, eminent classical dance artist Sheema Kirmani along with several civil society activists told a news conference at the Karachi Press Club here on Wednesday.

They announced a ‘Minority Rights March’ to be held on Aug 11 on the occasion of the National Minority Day.

Representatives of the march organisers spoke about the issues faced by minorities in society, and urged the government to respect their rights.

Sheema Kirmani said that on August 11, 1947, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah had promised equal rights for all citizens of Pakistan, and the day was declared the ‘National Minority Day’ in Pakistan in 2009.

She said: “With unity and purpose, we have come together to hold the first Minority Rights March. People who do not belong to the majority religion are being prosecuted in Pakistan, and minority faiths face violence and discrimination. The looming threat of misuse of the blasphemy law causes fear and insecurity among young and old. We will march together for equality and justice.”

According to her, one of the major concerns for these groups has been the misuse of blasphemy laws, which can lead to discrimination, violence and even death sentences. Attacks on places of worship and instances of forced conversions have also been reported. Many minorities have expressed their concern over their safety and about protection of their religious freedoms.

Pastor Ghazala Shafique, a social activist, said: “Like Islam, every other religion should be respected equally, and their holy events and holidays should be mandatory and be officially announced.”

She said: “We should have equal right to worship and follow our faith at our religious places.”

She also condemned the recent incident that happened at Sargodha where three cases of blasphemy were lodged against local Christians.

National Commission on Human Rights (NCHR) associate Anis Haroon said: “I am ashamed, and I apologise to all minority groups for the behaviour they have faced in their own country; and I urge all citizens to stop this unethical behaviour and disrespect towards minority communities in Pakistan.”

Behvish Kumar, also a social media activist, said: “We demand the incoming federal legislature to amend the Constitution to increase the reserved seats for religious minorities in each of elected bodies from five per cent to at least 10pc, with special reserved seats for women from these communities, including Christians, Hindus and the scheduled caste”.

Interfaith Commission for Peace and Harmony (ICPH) Chairman Allama Mohammad Ahsan said: “Islam supports, respects and protects all minority rights.”

A major issue about sanitation workers, who are mostly non-Muslims, was also discussed at the press conference. The speakers said that sanitation workers often worked in hazardous conditions without proper protective gears, which exposed them to health risks.

They handle waste without adequate training and are vulnerable to injuries and illnesses. Many sanitation workers are paid low wages for their demanding work, which often does not reflect the importance of their role in maintaining public health and hygiene.

Ramesh Kumar, from the Sikh community, Aurat Foundation Chairman Mehnaz Rehman, Sindh Commission on the Status of Women Chairman Nuzhat Shireen, along with other representatives from various communities and civil society organisations, were also present at the press conference.

Published in Dawn, August 10th, 2023

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