A court order in search of enforcers

By Umar Cheema

ISLAMABAD: On June 15, a UK delegation met Federal Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari and the delegates focused on prosecution of Christians in Pakistan. If the minister’s tweet is taken a guide, she didn’t explain the steps taken to arrest this trend. Instead, she checkmated them by raising issues the Muslim communities face in Britain.

While the minister was not available for comments, anybody who has been to UK will testify that the Muslims there are treated much better as minority than Christians here. If there was any doubt left, non-implementation of landmark judgment of former Chief Justice-led bench Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani is a damning evidence.

The judgment delivered in 2014 witnessed its fifth anniversary late Wednesday (June 19) but its implementation is still not in sight. In a rare suo motto, Justice Jillani had taken up this matter after a church attack in Peshawar in 2014 took 81 lives. Reports of forced conversion of Kalash tribes and Ismailies in Chitral as well as similar nature of complaints from Hindu community were also clubbed together.

In a historic verdict, the SC directed the federal government to set up a task force for developing a strategy on religious tolerance, revision of curriculum for promoting a culture of tolerance, a special quota for minorities in the federal and provincial services, action against the hate speech, the establishment of a national council for minorities and a special force for the protection of the worship places of minorities. Five years down the road, the verdict remains unimplemented. A week before his retirement, former CJ Mian Saqib Nisar-led bench took up the matter in response to a petition filed by Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and activists working on minority rights to remind the apex court that the judgment had not been implemented.

Consequently, a one-man commission was formed for the purpose. Former federal tax ombudsman Dr Shoaib Suddle who had been assigned gigantic tasks in the past, was its head. British Parliament hailed this step through a motion and affirmed its confidence in Dr Suddle “as a man of integrity and impartiality and capable of carrying out this critically important task.”

The commission was to set up its secretariat in Federal Judicial Academy and the federal government was under obligation to provide necessary funds in order to ensure the working of this one-man commission. Three months were given for the enforcement of Justice Jillani’s judgment. However, six months have been passed but the commission has failed to take off. Who to blame remains a question.

The sources privy to situation say that Federal Judicial Academy conveyed to the commission that it didn’t have enough space to house the secretariat. The academy can spare two rooms for the purpose but they were insufficient to carry out the task, according to a source.

Another building raised as an extension of the academy was suggested as alternative. However, it was later transpired that the possession of new building had been delayed due to faulty construction, though entire project was carried out under the watch of a sitting judge. Even shifting there was not an easy task.

As Justice Saqib Nisar-led bench had mentioned the academy for the secretariat purpose, the order required modification for placing it elsewhere. Since new implementation bench is not in place after the retirement of Justice Saqib Nisar, modification of the order is consequently facing inordinate delays.

Meanwhile, the federal government is dilly-dallying on the summary awaiting approval as it required passage from the cabinet as supplementary grant. Initial estimate of expenditure was of Rs7 million for outgoing financial year. Now new budget has been tabled, expenditure for this commission don’t reflect in it.

Before the formation of one-man commission, a half-hearted effort was made by the previous government to implement Justice Jillani’s judgment regarding the revision of curriculum. A couple of provincial governments took steps and others remained ignorant.

Sindh government revised curriculum at primary level whereas rectification at middle and matric level remained an unfulfilled task. Punjab only set up a committee and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa has not even formed that.

“KP is at the top in terms of teaching hate material,” said PTI MNA Dr Rumesh Kumar who is member of the committee set up by the SC and was consulted in the past when the court passed judgment in 2014.

Punjab followed KP in hate material and then comes, Sindh which has revised it at primary level. In Balochistan, I couldn’t figure out hate material in text books, he said while talking to The News in January after the formation of one-man commission.

Other than insecurity, another important issue the minorities face is absence of any quota in government services. Although the court had ordered the reservation of quota, no step has been taken either at federal level or provincial level.

Rumesh said he met the chief secretaries; the most negligent response was from the KP chief secretary; others agreed to take steps but didn’t walk the talk. Likewise, no measure has been taken for ensuring the protection of minorities and their worship places.

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