LAHORE - The political parties should let their actions speak louder than words as they have failed in materialising the promises made in manifestoes regarding protection of religious minorities.

The participants of a discussion on a report released by South Asia Partnership-Pakistan on Tuesday were of the view that even what has been committed in the constitution of Pakistan was not being implemented, particularly concerning the rights of religious minorities.

Representatives from PML-N, PPP, PTI, JI, JUI-F, ANP and civil society organisations participated in the debate.

The report discussed what the political parties have promised regarding the protection of religious minorities in Pakistan in their manifestoes for the elections 2013 and the prevailing situation.

Executive Director, SAP-PK said that population of Pakistan was increasing but that of religious minorities was not being officially considered more than three percent. He said that importance of conducting census was not being realised. He said that census was important to know the number of religious minorities and address their issues through framing policies and laws according to the needs and requirements. He said that poverty among religious minorities was also increasing day by day despite the tall claims and promises made by the governments. He also emphasised over the protection of minorities in all respects.

SAP-PK’s Manager Shabnam Rasheed threw light on the existing situation of minorities particularly in terms how discriminatory laws, over all mindset of the society, hate speeches, hate material and lack of interest and commitment of ruling governments was causing persecution of religious minorities. She also highlighted attacks on religious places of minorities, their migration from Pakistan, forced conversions, forced marriages and so on. She also presented some recommendations to upgrade the status of religious minorities in terms of ensuring their protection, religious freedom and other fundamental rights that have been guaranteed under the constitution and other international commitments.

PPP’s Naveed Chaudhry stressed the need to promote culture of tolerance and respect to the rights of humanity. He said that there was need to bring reforms, promote culture of one nation and let everyone freely practice religion.

JI’s Nazeer Ahmed Janjua said that it was a reality that many laws were misused what to talk of Blasphemy Law. He said that it should also be realised that whatever was happening against religious minorities such as forced conversions, lack of protection, forced marriages and so was not permitted in Islam.

PML-N’s Haji Naveed said that there was a need to abolish any sort of discrimination in the educational system and promote concept of one nation.

PTI’ Shunila Ruth said that members of religious minorities were equal citizens but they were not given the right to become the head of the state or the head of the government. She said that religious minorities need love, affection, care and respect from majority members of the society. JUIF’s Riaz Durani said that there was a need to find people who were creating hurdles in promoting the concept of one nation. Cecil S Chaudhry emphasised on addressing radicalisation, review curriculum and presentation of history in its true sense.

He also demanded that the verdict of the Supreme Court of Pakistan regarding the protection of religious minorities should be implemented.