Minorities’ rights fully protected in Pakistan: Nafees Zakaria

LONDON, Aug 11 (APP): Pakistan’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom (UK) Mohammad Nafees Zakaria Tuesday said the Constitution of Pakistan guaranteed fundamental rights for all its citizens irrespective of the religion, caste, colour or creed and thus minorities rights were fully protected in the country.

Addressing a ceremony organized by the British Pakistani Minority community here at the Pakistan High Commission in connection with the Minorities Day being observed on August 11 every year in Pakistan since 2009 to recognize the contribution and services of the minorities in Pakistan Movement and for the socio-economic prosperity of the country.

The event was attended among others by the members of British Pakistani minority community, Lord and Lady Iltaf Sheikh, Baroness Shaheen, Dr.Peter David, and Michael Massey.

Speaking on the occasion, Mohammad Nafees Zakaria said Pakistan was a multi-religious, multi-cultural, pluralistic society where people of different ethnic and religious backgrounds were living together in peace and harmony.

He said the Constitution guaranteed fundamental rights for all its citizens irrespective of religion, race, caste or creed. The recognition of the rights of the religious minorities was manifested in various legislative and constitutional measures.

The high commissioner said there were 10 reserved seats for minorities in the National Assembly and four in the Senate. Similarly, there were three minorities’ reserved seats each in the provincial assemblies of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhawa, eight in Punjab and nine in Sindh.

There was 5 percent government jobs quota for minorities, in addition to their rights to contest for open seats, he added.
Nafees Zakaria said Pakistan had constituted a National Commission for Minorities under the chairmanship of Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony to protect and safeguard religious,social and cultural rights of minorities.

“It also oversees national policy on interfaith harmony and ensures effective and equal participation of all religious minorities in all aspects of national life.”

To promote interfaith harmony, he said Pakistan had constituted district Interfaith harmony committees in all the four provinces, Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan and Federal Capital comprising members from all religions, presided by a high level government official.

The high commissioner said the Government of Pakistan had declared 11th August as “Minorities Day” since 2009 and celebrated all across the country. Additionally, numerous religious festivals of minorities were celebrated officially.

He said a Minorities Welfare Fund was set up for the execution of small development schemes for the repair/maintenance of the religious/worship places of the minorities, besides for grant of financial assistance to their poor segments and scholarships to their students on merit.

The speakers on the occasion appreciated the Pakistan High Commission for organizing the event to mark the Minorities Day.

On the occasion, renowned British-Pakistani first Sufi opera singer Saira Peter recited a melodious Gazal, which captivated the audience.