Government yet to fully implement Justice Jillani’s 2014 Judgment on minorities’ rights
Special Police Force for protection of worship places of religious minorities yet to be created
ISLAMABAD: After eight years of the landmark judgment of the Supreme Court of Pakistan on the rights of minorities, only 22% compliance has been achieved as the federal and provincial governments failed to fulfill their constitutional responsibilities by addressing gaps in governance and implementing the proposed measures in its the true spirit.
In a landmark, judgment issued on June 19, 2014, former Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice (retd) Tassaduq Hussain Jillani had issued seven key directives to the federal government and provincial governments. So far, the Supreme Court Bench had conducted 28 follow-up hearings and had issued 79 supplementary orders for compliance.
According to the Center for Social Justice (CSJ) statistics on implementation of the Justice Jillani’s Judgment, Sindh government leads the federal and provincial governments with 36% implementation followed by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government at 24% and federal government at 20%. Balochistan and Punjab governments are at the bottom of the chart with just 16% implementation.
The SC in its verdict had directed the federal and provincial governments to establish a Special Police Force with professional training to protect the places of worship of minorities. However, very little progress has been made in this regard as only the Sindh government has taken some practical steps to comply with the directives of the upper court. The Sindh Police a few months back had decided to set up a special unit for the security of places of worship belonging to minority communities across the province. The special unit will be responsible for the security of churches, temples and gurdwaras across the province.
According to the documents obtained from the Ministry of Interior through RTI request, a meeting of the Task Force on Minorities Rights & Hate Speeches in social media was held on September 13, 2021. With respect to the creation of a Special Police Force, the chair – Additional Secretary (Admin), Ministry of Interior – apprised the participants that the Ministry of Interior had requested ICT Police, Islamabad for views/ comments and also invited input from provincial governments. A representative from ICT stated that they are in the process of compiling the report in consultation with all the stakeholders. Representative of Punjab government informed that Chief Minister has approved 224 posts of Special Protection Unit (SPU). The representative apprised the participants that this case is going to be submitted to the cabinet committee on Finance and Development, which will then be approved by the Provincial Cabinet. After approval from Cabinet, these officers/officials will be deployed at the places of worship of minorities located in Punjab province. However, so far no progress has been made in this regard.
Representative of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government apprised the meeting that the provincial government has created 261 posts and 200 police personnel are also allocated for the protection of places of worship of minorities. Hence, a total of 461 officials have been deployed to protect the place of worship of minorities.
While talking to The Reporters, Peter Jacob – Executive Director of the Center for Social Justice – said that progress on the establishment of a Special Police Force is very slow which shows the unserious attitude of the government to implement the apex court verdict in its true spirit. He said that Justice Jillani’s Judgment on minorities’ rights faces challenges of non-implementation due to lack of good governance, indifference towards human rights and the plight of minorities amongst legal duty-bearers.
He further maintained that the creation of the Special Police Force might not be enough to ensure the security of the worship places of minorities. He suggested that steps should be taken to promote tolerance and interfaith harmony in society. He expressed dissatisfaction over the progress on Justice Jillani’s Judgment and maintained that 22 percent progress in eight years means that it will take more than three decades to fully implement the judgment.
Jacob opined that the major reasons for lack of implementation are political unwillingness, the governance overlap, and failure in Pakistan. He maintained that true political will is needed to back up such endeavours. He asked the government to implement SC’s seven orders on minorities’ rights.
On June 15, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif approved the formation of a 23-member task force to oversee the implementation of the rights of minorities after the National Assembly (NA) unanimously passed a resolution over the matter. MNA Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, who is also the patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council, will head the task force, comprising 23 parliamentarians, senators and ex-officio members. The chairman of the task force will hold the status of a federal minister, while the body will play an advisory role. Following the orders, Dr Ramesh Vankwani said that in collaboration with human rights activists, parliamentarians, civil society, media persons and diplomats soon he will launch a movement for the protection of the minorities’ rights.
While addressing a conference in Islamabad, Supreme Court lawyer Saqib Jillani asked the federal and provincial governments to fulfill their constitutional responsibilities by addressing gaps in governance and implementing proposed measures to effectively fulfill minorities’ rights in the true spirit of Justice Jillani’s Judgment.
On the occasion, Saroop Ijaz – a member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) – said that the government has failed to capitalize on Justice Jillani’s Judgment on minorities’ rights to realize equality of rights and respect for diversity in Pakistan. He said that non-compliance with court orders is due to a lack of political or a lack of institutional capacity and will of the government machinery.
Justice (R) Nasira Javid Iqbal in her address said that it is eight years since the passing of Justice Jillani’s Judgment and we are still waiting for its implementation. She said it is the responsibility of the government to implement the apex court orders and address serious issues of minorities in Pakistan.
Key directives for the government of Pakistan in the Justice Jillani’s Judgment are:
- Create a federal government task force to prepare a strategy for religious tolerance
- Develop curricula for religious/social tolerance
- Take steps to discourage online hate speech
- Create a national council for minorities to monitor and protect the rights of religious minorities
- Create a special police force to protect places of worship of minorities
- Ensure quota reservations for religious minorities in federal and provincial government services
- Prompt action by law enforcement agencies in case of violations of rights of religious minorities