The long wait for justice: Jillani judgement conference

The long wait for justice: Jillani judgement conference

Islamabad, 19 June. Observing the fifth anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court judgement
on the protection of religious minorities’ rights, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP)
held a conference with other civil society organisations to reiterate the importance of
implementing the judgement. The conference, which was organised jointly with the Centre for
Social Justice (CSJ), the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP), and the Cecil and Iris
Chaudhry Foundation, was widely attended by civil society, including lawyers, journalists, human
rights activists, and members of diplomatic missions.

Speaking on the occasion, HRCP’s honorary spokesperson, Mr I A Rehman, said that the
implementation of the Jillani judgement was ‘not just a matter of concern for minorities alone. It
is the concern of all Pakistanis.’ He added, ‘States that do not take good care of their minorities,
perish. Yet the state has created an environment in which the media is afraid to discuss the
problems faced by religious minorities.’

Describing the judgement as a ‘key catalyst in building pro-minority jurisprudence in Pakistan’,
Mr Peter Jacob, executive director of CSJ, criticised the state’s apparent reluctance to proceed
on the judgement’s directives, adding that ‘we have seen no discussion or debate in Parliament
or among political parties on the issues it raises.’

The panel, which included jurists, rights activists and representatives of different religious
communities, spoke at length about the state’s lack of compliance with the Jillani judgment with
respect to job quotas for minorities, the protection of sites of worship and the need to eliminate
discriminatory material from school and college curricula. Speakers included Mr Imran Kabeer, a
representative of Pakistan’s Kalash community; educationist Dr A. H. Nayyar; Mr Parkash
Mahtani, a representative of the Hindu community from Sindh; Dr Adnan Rafique; and Bishop
Joseph Arshad.

Justice (R) Ali Nawaz Chowhan, chairperson of the National Commission for Human Rights,
impressed on the state its historical and constitutional obligation to protect the interests of
religious minorities. Underscoring the plight of the beleaguered Shia Hazara community, Justice
(R) Nasira Iqbal said it was not just that the Jillani Judgement had to be implemented, but also
‘the ethos of the judgement that must be understood and pursued.’

Former Senator Farhatullah Babar pointed out that, following the Jillani judgement, ‘we thought
that all the decisions would be in accordance with the jurisprudence,’ adding that this had not
been the case. HRCP Secretary-General Harris Khalique noted that there was ‘no concept of equal
citizenship in Pakistan’s constitution. If non-Muslims cannot be President of the country,
eventually they cannot be chief judges. Their representation on other forums is nominal.’ The
panel agreed that the swift implementation of the Jillani judgement was critical if Pakistan’s
religious minorities were to enjoy the same fundamental rights as all other citizens of the country.

Dr Mehdi Hasan

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