mardi 6 mai 2008
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By Sheraz Khurram Khan
The Chairman of All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA) and Christian parliamentarian, Mr. Shahbaz Bhatti, has called on Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mr. Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, and apprised him of long-standing demands of religious minorities of Pakistan in a one-to-one meeting at the Prime Minister Secretariat last week.
Mr. Shahbaz, who heads All Pakistan Minorities Alliance, a representative body of religious minorities of Pakistan apprised the Prime Minister of discrimination, persecution of minorities, violence, incidents of attacks and oppression of minorities’ communities of Pakistan.
The Christian legislator took up a host of minorities-related issues with the Prime Minister including increase in the number of reserved seats for the non-Muslims in the national and provincial assemblies, minorities representation in Senate, the upper house of Pakistan parliament, repeal of all discriminatory laws including those that violate the Universal Standard of Human Rights and are contradictory with the vision of founding father of Pakistan, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
He also called for the allocation of special time on regular basis on government TV channels for the religious programs of the minorities communities, promotion of inter-faith harmony and solidarity among the people of different faiths, celebration of minorities religious festivals at the national level and declaration of public holiday on all religious festivals of the minorities communities, allocation of special fund from “Bait-ul-Mal” (government body that gives funds to the poor and the needy) for the treatment of poor patients belonging to minorities communities, freedom to prisoners to practice their faith freely and allocation of special places for prisoners for worship.
He also asked for the representation of non-Muslims in all policy making institutions of the country including appropriate representation of minorities’ in federal and provincial cabinets, management of trust properties by the respective minorities communities, heading of Evacuee Trust property board by the person belonging to religious minorities, regularization of Christian kutchi abadis (slums) in the capital of Pakistan, Islamabad, allocation of quota for minorities in all posts across the board in federal and provincial services and initiation of a 5 marla housing scheme for the homeless and needy people belonging to minorities communities.
Talking to ANS the APMA Chief said he also drew the Prime Minister’s attention toward misuse of Pakistan controversial blasphemy laws.
“I updated the Prime Minister on the APMA’s long-standing demand of repeal of all discriminatory laws including Pakistan blasphemy laws,” he said.
Mr. Shahbaz said he told the Prime Minister that he was no seeker of any perks, privileges, office or any other favor but had only come to see him to update him on concerns of the Pakistani religious minorities’ communities.
The All Pakistan Minorities Alliance, which has been striving for minorities’ rights in Pakistan for several years emerged as the most powerful body of the minorities’ communities in the wake of 2008 parliamentary elections.
Referring to his meeting with the PM, the Christian parliamentarian told ANS that he had expressed his optimism to the Prime Minister that the government of Pakistan Peoples Party would take up measures to ensure realization of long-standing demands of minorities’ communities.
A staunch campaigner of minority rights, Mr. Shahbaz earlier addressed Pakistan parliament on March 29 and called for equal and similar rights for Pakistani minorities.
The Christian legislator said he also hailed Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani’s speech in the parliament in which he had called for safeguarding minorities’ rights and their due representation in every field of life.
Mr. Shahbaz said he also presented a 14 point Charter of Demands to the Prime Minister.
Earlier in August 2007, Mr. Shahbaz had put forward a charter of demands while addressing a mammoth minority rally in which thousands of minority people had turned up.
Mr. Shahbaz told ANS that the Prime Minister directed the relevant ministers and secretaries of all the four provinces of the country to submit the summary with in 10 days at the Prime Minister Secretariat in response to the issues raised by the APMA chief.
The Prime Minister held out an assurance to me that the government will ensure equal and similar rights for minorities and will also ensure protection of minorities rights as well as religious freedom, said Shahbaz.
Mr. Shahbaz told ANS that he had come in Parliament to advocate the long-neglected case of the oppressed, persecuted, terrorized, victimized, subjugated, marginalized and down-trodden people of Pakistan. He termed serving the suffering church and humanity as his objective in life. He said he would step down from office, if he did not succeed in defending the rights of the minorities’ communities of Pakistan.
“I do not have any lust or hunger for office, position or portfolio,” he said.
© Assist News Service
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