Saturday, June 27, 2015

Minorities’ rights: Top court takes notice of threats to Kalash

Published: February 21, 2014
A three-judge bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani on Thursday took suo motu notice of news reports that theTaliban have warned members of the indigenous Kalash community to convert to Islam or face death.
The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government revealed before the Supreme Court that the nearly 3,500 inhabitants of Kalash Valley, Chitral are receiving threats from Afghanistan.
During the hearing on Thursday, the court hinted at summoning the district coordination officer and district police officer of Chitral in this matter but provincial Advocate General Latif Yousafzai told the bench that it would not be possible for them to reach Pakistan as the Lowari Tunnel is closed due to snowfall. Yousafzai, therefore, suggested that he be given some time for seeking instructions from relevant quarters about this media report.
After consultations, Yousafzai returned and told the court that he had spoken with senior officials of K-P’s home ministry who informed him that the Kalash group is facing local as well as external threats from Nuristan, an Afghan province bordering the valley.
The advocate general also said that the K-P government has already requested that the federal government take this matter up with the government of Afghanistan.
He ensured that the provincial government would take extra security measures for the safety of the people of Kalash.
The court, however, directed the K-P government to submit a report regarding the protection of the Kalash Valley inhabitants within a week.
The chief justice said that this threat is against Articles 9, 20 and 36 of the Constitution as Islam preaches tolerance and peace.
Punjab report submitted
Punjab Advocate General Mustafa Ramday has also submitted a report about the number of minorities’ worship places in the different districts of the province.
He also claimed that no complaint has been received by a member of any minority community.
A representative of the Christian community, Shahid Miraj, has expressed dissatisfaction over the security measures taken by the provincial government and said that more security should be given for the protection of worship places.
The bench asked him to share his security concerns with the AG Punjab. Likewise, a report has also been submitted by the Sindh government regarding this issue.
According to the report, Hindu Gymkhana, a declared national heritage, is now in the custody of the National Academy of Performing Arts.
Regarding the security of worship places of minorities, Yousafzai said that 201 police personnel and 55 private officials have been deputed by the provincial government for this specific task.
The hearing of the case was adjourned until February 25.
Earlier, representatives of the Christian community said they were scared of the misuse of Section 295 (a and c) of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) that deals with blasphemy. There are dozens of people in jail under trial on blasphemy, the Catholic Church said.
Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, a patron of Pakistan Hindu Council (PHC), pleaded that the court should direct the law ministry to consider promulgating a law within three months regulating Hindu marriages and dissolution.
The matter is currently pending with the law ministry.
He has also requested the court to direct the four chief ministers to immediately appoint a registrar for the registration of Hindu marriages in every District Headquarters (DHQ) with the consultation of PHC.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 21st, 2014.