Lahore: Center for Social Justice (CSJ), a research and advocacy forum, has approached the Senate, raising serious concerns on the amendment to “The Protection of Communal Ordinance 2002” pending before the Senate of Pakistan.
This amendment passed by the National Assembly in June 2021 that seeks to shift “authorization of sales/transfer/purchase/gift the properties” belonging to minorities, from the federal government to the “Ministry concerned”, supposedly, the Federal Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony.
CSJ has simultaneously approached, the leadership of major political parties including, PPP Chairman Bilawal Butto Zardari, PML-N President Shahbaz Sharif, MQM-P Convener Khalid Maqbool Saddqui, Balochistan Awami Party President Jam Kamal Khan and leader of the opposition in the Senate Yousaf Raza Gillani.
In this above mentioned communication emphasized that several disputes were pending in courts across Pakistan while the properties belonging to Christians, Hindus, and Sikhs have been usurped with impunity, whereas the officials of the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony and other bodies have failed to protect these properties.
Therefore, the amendment will likely lead to lack of transparency and loss of properties belonging to minority communities in Pakistan.
Peter Jacob expressed his apprehensions that the arbitrariness in the amendment to Section 6 of the Protection to Communal Properties Ordinance 2002 will entail concentration of powers to the Ministry of Religious Affairs will go against the purpose of accountability and transparency.
Jacob opined that the proposed bill ignores the fact that the communal properties are basically a provincial subject, moreover, at least three provinces (Balochistan, Sindh and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa), have legislation existing on the subject. Therefore, the application of the bill will be limited.
Moreover the proposer, the federal government has failed to consult the provincial governments. He also stressed that the Communal Properties Ordinance 2002 provides the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) as a recommendatory forum for this authorization.
The non-statutory constitution of NMC is challenged by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and the One-Man-Commission (Dr. Suddle) in the Supreme Court under the Jillani judgment of 2014.
CSJ recommended a comprehensive review and analysis of the problems related to communal properties is not carried out.
Considering the above concerns the Chairman Senate should stop proceeding on this amendment bill.