Minorities’ rights, places of worship to be protected: CJP

Nasir Iqbal

ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Gulzar Ahmed on Wednesday held out an assurance that as long as he served the top judicial office, he would ensure that the rights of minority communities, as guaranteed under the Constitution, were protected at any cost and that the tragic incidents of desecration and vandalism of their places of worship were not repeated.

Speaking at a seminar organised by the Implementation of the Minority Rights Forum (IMRF) and All Neighbours on the rights of the minorities at a local hotel, the CJP recalled how he felt pain when he learnt about the desecration of temples both at Hindu Samadhi in Karak, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and at Ganesh Mandir in Bhong, Rahim Yar Khan.

“That was the reason why prompt suo motu notices were taken on the desecration of the worship places because such tragic and unfortunate incidents of desecration of the holy places of the minority communities were neither tolerable nor acceptable in the country,” the CJP said.

“Hindu temples, Sikh gurdwaras and churches are as important and sacred to me as my own religious places,” observed the CJP, adding that such incidents should be discouraged with full force by taking prompt and stern action against the culprits.

“A sense of tolerance and religious harmony should be instilled in our society so that the people are allowed to live and profess their religion freely without any fear,” Justice Gulzar said.

“The Supreme Court of Pakistan always takes the fundamental rights of all people of the country very seriously and sincerely and we have always been at the forefront to ensure no unfairness, atrocities or violation of any fundamental right of the minority communities take place,” he said.

The CJP added that the apex court would continue to take measures relentlessly to ensure necessary action against any disrespect to the harmony, tranquillity or coherence in society.

He stressed the need for rooting out the rampant practice of marrying underage girls from the minority communities with Muslims, especially in Sindh and Punjab, and emphasised that the Christian Marriage Act 1872 should be made applicable to all such cases.

“The law clearly disallows underage marriage of girls and since such wedlocks may not be void but definitely wrong and, therefore, this should come to an end. The courts should always pronounce dissolution of such marriages,” the CJP said.

He also asked Attorney General for Pakistan Khalid Jawed Khan, who was present on the occasion, to look into the matter and bring the issue to the notice of the government for finding some amicable solution to the problem.

Citing examples from Tharparkar (Sindh) where underage girls usually tell the court that they have married Muslim men of their free will, the CJP said the courts should be extra careful in dealing with such cases and, being a serious matter, the issue needed to be addressed promptly.

Justice Gulzar also referred to the 2014 landmark judgement of the Supreme Court on the rights of the minority communities and said the court, through the most liberal construction of the minority rights, ordered the government to ensure that the rights of minorities were protected, their places of worship secured and an atmosphere of tolerance and religious harmony was ensured.

He said that as a result of the judgement, a National Council for Minority Rights was established and a commission headed by Dr Shoaib Suddle was constituted, which was doing an exemplary function by acting a bridge between the minorities and the government.

“Any individual with any grievance on the minority rights can approach Dr Suddle and, in return, the commission will ensure that nothing goes wrong and the rights of minorities are protected,” the CJP said.

Earlier, Samuel Payara, chairman of the IMRF, highlighted that the law regarding marriages of underage girls was not being implemented and appreciated that courts in the country had always taken stern and prompt action against any violation of the rights of minority communities.


Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2021