For the first time in Pakistan’s parliamentary history, a minority convention was held in the National Assembly hall to commemorate the speech of Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah regarding the freedom and equality of minorities in the then constituent assembly on August 11, 1947.
A unanimous resolution was passed for the rights of minorities, in which all the representatives of the minority communities declared parliament as the centre of their hopes. National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf announced that the minority convention would be held on August 11 every year.
Ashraf, who chaired the National Minority Convention on the 75th anniversary of the constituent assembly, said that every action would be taken on the guidelines given by the prime minister for the protection and rights of minorities.
A number of current and former members from the minority communities of the national and provincial assemblies besides top party leaders addressed the convention. In their speeches, the minority community leaders expressed concern over the treatment of minorities in India.
Responding to the speeches, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said that the Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) commitment to the minority community had been continuing since the time of late prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.
He said that all the political parties were in favour of solving the problems of the minorities. Therefore, he added, a parliamentary committee should be formed to monitor the process of resolution of the problems identified by the minority leaders.
“We must prove by our actions that we believe in the equality of every citizen,” Bilawal, the chairman of the PPP, told the convention. “We will fulfil the vision of Quaid-e-Awam Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and the late prime minister Benazir Bhutto.”
On the occasion, the foreign minister called for reviewing the implementation of the minority quotas. He also stressed the need for enacting and implementing legislation aimed at preventing forced conversion. In his speech, Bilawal paid rich tributes to former minorities’ leader Shahbaz Bhatti.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Murtaza Javed supported Bilawal’s proposal for the creation of a monitoring parliamentary committee for minority affairs. He also supported the call for creating a joint parliamentary committee of the Centre and the provinces.
Former National Assembly member from the minorities, Asiya Nasir, tabled a joint resolution to solve the problems of the minority community and for the development of Pakistan. The resolution was approved unanimously.
The resolution said that the minorities should be treated with equal rights and equal citizenship under the law, adding that steps would be taken to eliminate all forms of discrimination against minorities. It stressed the need for the National Assembly to enact effective legislation regarding minorities’ rights.