It is a matter of great honour and privilege for me that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has appointed me chairman of a task force with a status of federal minister. The newly-constituted task force, comprising five senators and nine MNAs from minority communities, will be responsible for overseeing minority issues in line with the directions of the honorable Supreme Court.
Here, I also would like to thank all political parties, especially religious parties, that unanimously passed a resolution in the National Assembly in my favour to prioritize the issue of minority rights. It is also a great honour for me to have the trust of my fellow parliamentarians.
I have been in parliament for the last two decades and I have tabled many bills to introduce new legislation or seek amendments for the public interest at large. Despite my very tough schedule, I ensure I am available to extend immediate help in case any segment of the community faces an issue beyond their local reach. My presence in parliament also helps maintain close coordination with other fellow parliamentarians to promote interfaith harmony.
I have represented the Hindu community before the honourable Supreme Court on many issues, such as kidnappings and abductions, forced conversions, restoration of temples and holy places, job quotas, and most recently to seek prohibition of alcohol beverages in the name of non-Muslims. I believe that by doing this social work, I am contributing something to make our society peaceful where everyone enjoys their rights.
The detailed decision of June 19, 2014 by the Supreme Court for the protection of minorities reflects one of my most significant struggles in the legal field. The judgment is, no doubt, among the few such actions by the judiciary that attempts to address and ensure the rights of non-Muslim citizens. I am very hopeful that now all pillars of the state would be on one page on this issue, with the cooperation of the media.
Although the role of the task force us advisory in nature, the decision by the current government to follow the unanimously passed resolution can be termed historic for various reasons. First, it is an deniable fact that minorities in Pakistan are facing numerous issues despite their unconditional love for the country. Forced conversions and forced marriages of underage minor girls belonging to the Hindu community have not been controlled yet. Such an unwanted situation creates a sense of insecurity and panic among the vulnerable minority communities. However, this can be overcome with the help of this task force.
Pakistan has a rich heritage and great potential for faith tourism. On several occasions, I have highlighted this issue that our holy places and historic sites are in dire need of protection by government institutions. Most recently, our temple in Korangi, Karachi came under attack by some extremist elements, who attacked it in response to the persecution of Muslims in India. I believe that now I will be in a better position to preserve and safeguard our places.
I have visited many foreign countries and observed that the main objective of any welfare state must be to provide social and economic equality to all citizens regardless of their religious affiliations. Under the task force, I will try my best to play my due role in ensuring fair standards of living, access to justice, education, job opportunities and freedom of expression.
I would like to dedicate this new responsibility to Quaid-e-Azam, whose August 11, 1947 speech is still a ray of hope for all patriotic non-Muslim minorities. I would like to assure everyone that the task force, under my chairmanship, is ready to accept the toughest challenge to implement what Quaid-e-Azam had promised with non-Muslim citizens 75 years ago. I pledge to complete all tasks with the support of all my colleagues, human right activists and the non-Muslim community. I thank God Almighty who has enabled me to do something good for my country and nation.
The writer is a member of the National Assembly and patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council.
He tweets @RVankwani