Implementation Stressed For Apex Court Verdict On Minorities’ Rights

Implementation Stressed For Apex Court Verdict On Minorities’ Rights
Centre for Social Justice has launched a research report on Supreme Court verdict titled, "JUSTICE YET AFAR: An Assessment of Supreme Court’s Verdict on Minorities Rights". 31st March 2021 marked 2,483 days– six years and nine months– after the landmark judgment on the rights of minorities was passed by the Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani on 19th June 2014. During this period, a Supreme Court Bench has conducted 23 follow-up hearings and passed nearly six dozens of orders, yet, Pakistan stands 21 years away from the finish line of full implementation, considering the existing pace of compliance, the research report observed.

This research is presented by Peter Jacob, the author of the study “Justice Yet Afar” published by the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ).

The study incorporating legal research approach to draw conclusions is unique. It is the third publication by the author on the subject. The first study, "When Compliance Fails Justice", was carried out 27 months after the judgment, and the second, "A Long Wait for Justice" on the fifth anniversary of the judgment on 19th June 2019. The new version Justice Yet Afar studies the institutional aspects of implementation initiatives as well the gaps confronted. A keen investigation of the precedent law on the minorities’ rights in Pakistan has been added. The topics covered include national commission for minorities, protection of communal properties, job quota, curriculum for peace and the One-Man-Commission constituted by the Supreme Court of Pakistan, indicating factors and actors vis-à-vis compliance of the verdict.

The publication is dedicated to memory of veteran advocate of human rights and intellectual, I A Rehman who passed away on April 12 this year. The report also carries the foreword contributed by him.

A virtual inauguration of this research study was held in Lahore on 30th April 2021, Justice (r) Nasira Iqbal, Hina Jillani, former Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on human rights and chairperson Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, historian Dr. Yaqoob Khan Bangash, human rights activist & lawyer Saroop Ijaz and advocate Saqib Jillani spoke at length about the state’s lack of compliance with the Jillani judgment and reluctance to proceed on the directives.

Ms Hina Jillani termed the study a skillful in summarization of the events regarding Supreme Court’s verdict and follow-up, and the observations made are insightful. She stated that the Supreme Court through this landmark judgment had suggested a very comprehensive and precise framework for the protection of the minorities’ right which if fully implemented would provided relief to minorities on one hand and a social cohesion in Pakistan on the other. “This study informs us that despite clear orders in the verdict, the Federal and Provincial governments had not achieved beyond 24 percent compliance on even after the lapse of seven years,” she added.

Speaking on the blocking factors analyzed in the study, Dr Yaqoob Khan Bangash said that the absence of a statutory body for protection and oversight of minority rights in the form of an independent National Minorities Commission, the pending legislation on personal laws of minorities, gaps in the administrative measures; such as the formation of task forced and lack of inclusive reforms in education system will continue to linger on. The implementers need to consider on priority the effective adoption of protection framework suggested in this landmark judgment.

Emphasizing the importance of the Judgment, Lawyer, Saqib Jillani said that the judgment has helped the nation to focus on the issues of minorities, while its lack of implementation has exposed the gaps in governance. The decision makers as well as the people at large should meet the challenge of reforming our system with matching response. He underlined that guided by the Honourable Supreme Court bench, the One-Man-Commission has done its best to serve the nation under trying circumstances. He reiterated his support for the people struggling to see justice prevail in all aspects in Pakistan.

Former Judge Lahore High Court, Justice Nasira Iqbal pointed out that there was a need to emphasize the concept of equal citizenship accompanying the same rights for all irrespective of faith. She said that the guideline provided through the decision of 19 June 2014 only reaffirms this concept, equal human dignity through the lens of constitution and human rights. She emphasized that Pakistan will have to modernize its education system and develop an inclusive curricula for all as proposed in the court directives.

Mr Saroop Ijaz, human rights activist, moderated the discussion. Speaking at the launch, he hoped that the government will give a serious attention to the recommendation for an effective implementation at both provincial and federal government levels to protect minorities’ rights in the light of the Judgment.

Peter Jacob, the author and Director CSJ, said that the study Justice Yet Afar is an effort to investigate into the causes behind the lack of (76%) implementation which he believed was vital to empower Pakistan as a society and state against the challenges. He said that the on-going efforts for rule of law, respect for human rights and democratic and participatory governance are a testimony to peoples’ urge for justice and peace in the country. While the hope that the judgment ignited is basically about restoration of Pakistan’s capacity and vibrancy as egalitarian and peace-loving society.