Conferences, Events

Provincial Conference for Minority Rights

CM Sindh, Justice (r) Maqbool Baqar during Sindh Ministry of Minority Affairs and the Arts Council of Pakistan Karachi's one-day Provincial Conference for Minority Rights

One-day “Provincial Conference for Minority Rights” organized by Sindh Minority Affairs Department in collaboration with Arts Council of Pakistan Karachi

In a collaborative effort between the Sindh Ministry of Minority Affairs and the Arts Council of Pakistan Karachi, a one-day “Provincial Conference for Minority Rights” held at Auditorium I. The event, graced by key dignitaries, aimed to address the rights and concerns of minority communities.

Prominent figures in attendance included Chief Minister Sindh Justice (R) Maqbool Baqir, Minister of Information, Minority Affairs, Social Protection, and President Arts Council of Pakistan Karachi Muhammad Ahmed Shah, alongside Shoaib Suddal, Iqbal Ahmed Dathu, Mirza Moiz Baig, and Akram Ali Khawaja, Secretary of Minority Affairs. Notable speakers, including Naveed Anthony, Faisal Siddiqui, Sukh Dev, and Ramesh Singh, contributed to the discussions.

The conference, marked by a significant turnout from the minority community, commenced with the national anthem. In his welcome speech, Secretary Minority Affairs Akram Ali Khawaja expressed his honor to be part of the event, emphasizing its mission to safeguard minority rights and promote peace. Caretaker Chief Minister of Sindh, Justice Retired Maqbool Baqir, underscored the conference’s focus on the rights and independent beliefs of non-Muslim citizens. Addressing global threats to minority rights and civil liberties, he stressed the need for unity and discouraged sectarian and ethnic prejudices.

Referring to the 2014 attack on a church in Peshawar. Admitting the right to preach, he further said that in the Salamat Mansha case, the Supreme Court granted bail to the accused who had committed a crime against religion. We have often failed to protect non-Muslim citizens. I consciously choose to use the word minority. A citizen should not feel like a minority in his own country, he said, “Unfortunately, extremism and bigotry have spread to large sections of our population. Joint efforts to forge an alliance with progressives will help stem the tide of violent extremism.”

As signatories to international conventions like the ICCPR, we have to expand the boundaries of religious freedom. He also acknowledged the Supreme Court’s role in protecting citizens’ rights and urged efforts for a pluralistic, democratic, and progressive Pakistan. Addressing the audience, Caretaker Minister of Information, Minority Affairs, Social Protection, and President Arts Council of Pakistan Karachi Muhammad Ahmed Shah emphasized that all resources allocated for minority affairs are intended for the benefit of the entire minority community.

He announced the release of two quarters’ funds for minority community initiatives, with the third quarter currently in the process of being released. Shah praised Sindh’s commitment, stating that no other province has accomplished as much as Sindh in the light of this commission. He specifically mentioned the availability of funds for scholarships, marriage, and health. Reflecting on his tenure as the head of the Ministry of Minority Affairs, Shah recounted calling a meeting with the members of the minority committee within a week. He expressed the need to examine the performance of students in matric and intermediate examinations to ensure equal opportunities for the minority community.

Minister Muhammad Ahmed Shah passionately stated, “In Pakistan green flag, the white color represents the minority. Pakistan belongs to everyone we should avoid the concept of minority. We must ensure that every citizen, regardless of their religious affiliation, feels equal in our country. We need to share a table, share our bread, and if I lose my job, I will say that minorities should have equal rights.” Furthermore, he advocated for insurance coverage for all janitorial staff, emphasizing the importance of equal participation for people of every religion in Pakistan. He challenged the notion of minorities being labeled as such and stressed the need for a more inclusive society.

Concluding his address, Minister Muhammad Ahmed Shah remarked, “Every citizen should have an equal share, and the minority’s five percent quota should not remain unutilized.” His speech resonated with a call for unity, equality, and the elimination of discriminatory practices against minorities in Pakistan. Shoaib Saddal praised the conference’s significance and recalled the 2013 church bombing in Peshawar. Proposing the formation of a National Council for minorities and a robust institute, he advocated for the effective address of minority issues. Suddal also suggested removing harmful content from social media and proposed a special police force to safeguard minority places of worship.

Mirza Moiz Baig congratulated Muhammad Ahmed Shah for fostering unity among people of all religions. Emphasizing constitutional provisions allowing freedom of religion for all, he expressed optimism about bringing positive change in Sindh by addressing minority issues.

Iqbal Ahmad Dathu delved into the formation of the Human Rights Commission in 2011 and the constitutional rights guaranteed to minorities. He stressed the need to address challenges related to the registration of Hindu marriages and property, acknowledging ongoing efforts in Sindh for the rights and protection of the minority community.

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