Rights of Minorities

Concept of Minorities Rights

Minority rights refer to the legal and social protections granted to groups within a society that are numerically smaller or less powerful than the dominant or majority group. These rights are designed to ensure that minority groups are not marginalized, discriminated against, or disadvantaged due to their smaller numbers or distinct characteristics. Protecting minority rights is important for upholding principles of equality, human rights, and social harmony within a diverse society like Sindh.

In the specific context of Sindh, which is known for its cultural, ethnic, and religious diversity in Pakistan, the concept of minority rights is particularly important for several reasons:

  • Ethnic Diversity

Sindh is home to a variety of ethnic groups, including Sindhis, Balochis, Punjabis, Muhajirs, and others. Respecting minority rights is vital to ensure that all these groups can coexist peacefully and harmoniously, fostering a sense of unity and shared identity.

  • Religious Pluralism

Sindh has a rich history of religious diversity, with a significant Muslim population alongside Hindu, Christian, and Sikh communities. Protecting the rights of religious minorities is essential to maintain a tolerant and inclusive society where everyone can freely practice their faith.

  • Cultural Preservation

Different communities in Sindh have their own languages, traditions, and cultural practices. Safeguarding minority rights helps preserve and celebrate this cultural diversity, contributing to the province’s overall cultural richness.

  • Social Harmony

Ensuring that minority groups are treated fairly and respectfully fosters social cohesion and harmony. When minority rights are protected, it reduces the likelihood of tensions and conflicts between different ethnic or religious groups.

  • Economic Opportunities

Embracing diversity and ensuring minority rights can lead to the fuller participation of all segments of society in economic activities. This inclusivity can have positive effects on economic growth and development in Sindh.

  • Political Representation

Minority rights often include provisions for political representation. By ensuring that minority voices are heard in the political process, Sindh can have a more inclusive and representative governance system.

  • Education and Empowerment

Respecting minority rights includes ensuring access to education and opportunities for economic empowerment. This can uplift minority communities and contribute to their overall development.

  • Preventing Extremism

A society that values and protects minority rights tends to be more tolerant and less prone to extremism and radicalization. This is especially important in Sindh, where social harmony is crucial to counter potential sources of tension.

Sindh with its diverse population and historical significance, the protection of minority rights is not just a legal obligation but also a way to strengthen the province’s social fabric, promote tolerance, and create an environment where all individuals can live and thrive without fear of discrimination or exclusion. It is a means to uphold the principles of equality and human rights while celebrating the unique contributions of every community in the province.

Minorities Rights under International Instruments

Several international treaties and conventions offer protections for the rights of minorities. 

  • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (CCPR)

Article 27 of the ICCPR focuses on the rights of minorities, affirming that ethnic, religious, or linguistic minorities shall not be denied the right to enjoy their culture, practice their religion, or use their language.

  • International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR)

While not explicitly addressing minorities, the ICESCR emphasizes the right to non-discrimination in accessing economic, social, and cultural rights, which is vital for minority groups.

  • United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious, and Linguistic Minorities

This declaration specifically focuses on protecting the rights of minorities. It outlines rights related to cultural, linguistic, religious identity, equality, participation, and non-discrimination.

  • United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP)

While focusing on indigenous peoples, UNDRIP covers protections for minority groups, safeguarding their rights to culture, language, education, and participation in decision-making processes.

  • International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD)

While primarily addressing racial discrimination, ICERD also protects ethnic, religious, and linguistic minorities from discrimination and ensures equal treatment.

These treaties establish legal frameworks and obligations for states to protect the rights of minorities, ensuring their cultural, religious, linguistic, and social identities are respected and preserved, and that they enjoy equal rights without discrimination.

Constitution of Pakistan, 1973

The Constitution of Pakistan includes provisions that protect the rights of minorities, ensuring their representation, participation, and freedom to practice their religion and culture. 

  • Article 20 – Freedom to profess religion and to manage religious institutions

This article guarantees the freedom to practice and profess religion, and it allows all religious communities to establish and manage their religious institutions.

  • Article 21 – Safeguard against taxation for promotion of a particular religion

Article 21 ensures that no person shall be compelled to pay taxes for the promotion of a particular religion other than their own.

  • Article 25 – Equality of citizens

Article 25 guarantees equality of citizens before the law and prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, religion, caste, or place of birth.

  • Article 36 – Protection of minorities

Article 36 safeguards the rights of minorities to freely profess and practice their religions and develop their cultures. It ensures their representation in federal and provincial services.

  • Article 37 – Promotion of social justice and welfare

Article 37 directs the state to ensure the well-being of the people, which includes minorities, by raising their standard of living and providing adequate means of livelihood for all citizens

Sindh Legal Framework

The Sindh provincial government has taken strides towards safeguarding minority rights by enacting laws such as the Sindh Protection of Communal Properties of Minorities Act (2013), the Sindh Minorities Rights Commission Act (2015), the Criminal Law (Protection of Minorities) Act (2015), and the Sindh Hindu Marriage Act (2016).

More on Minorities Rights