Peshawar: June 28, 2007. All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA) held a huge public gathering at Peshawar and an oath-taking ceremony of the APMA Provincial Executive Council was also organized which was attended by over 2,500 Christian, Sikh, Hindu, Balmiks, Kalash and Bihai minorities, including women and children at Peshawar. Mr. Shahbaz Bhatti, Chairman, All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA) presided over the public gathering
The members of district, Tehsil and Union council's coordination committees from all the 24 districts of NWFP including the minority councilors, Representatives of Human rights organizations, minority members of Assembly and delegates of all the religious minorities attended the programme.
Mr. Shahbaz Bhatti, Chairman APMA in his address said, "Religious Minorities of Pakistan played a vital role in the prosperity and development of Pakistan and even lay their lives to defend their motherland but today they are victimized, discriminated, neglected and considered second class citizens".
Mr. Bhati said, "The discriminatory laws still hangs on our heads like the sword of Damocles and the blasphemy law is still misused and innocent persons are put behind the bars. Our women have been forcibly taken away and forced to change their religion". He said that the entire country is in the grip of religious extremism and Talibanisations is being thrust upon the nation to disrupt peace. Extremist elements have challenged the government's writ and the government seems to be helpless.
He said that the government supported the religious extremists to hold power in the two important provinces having boarder with Afghanistan and sidelined the progressive and democratic forces. Today, our daughters and sons are worried as terrorist elements are frightening them.
Mr. Bhatti said that Over 20 million voters were missing from the voter lists, out of which 25 percent were minorities, and urged the election commission to pay attention to the problem.
He asked the government to increase the reserved seats for minorities in the National and Provincial Assemblies and allocate five reserved seats for minorities in Senate like that of women, ulema, FATA and technocrats.
He said that APMA would challenge laws discriminating against minorities in superior courts and bring legislative reforms through the parliament. APMA struggle is only for the empowerment of the poor and the achievements of the rights of the downtrodden class especially religious minorities of Pakistan.
He said "APMA is striving to promote interfaith harmony, religious freedom, social justice and human dignity in the multi-faith society of Pakistan"
While addressing an APMA's provincial executive council oath-taking ceremony, Mr. Bhatti asked the government to constitute a national commission for minorities under the chairmanship of a judge of the Supreme Court, which should put forward recommendations for giving equal rights to minorities, and those recommendations should be fully implemented.
He also demanded that job quota should be reserved for minorities in federal and provincial government's services. Moreover, competent lawyers from minorities should also be made judges of superior courts
He said that Jamia Hafsa and its affiliated bodies had been openly challenging the writ of the government by frequently kidnapping people, including women, foreigners and government servants. These religious groups have been misinterpreting Islam and curtailing fundamental rights of individual. He said if extremism and Talibanisation are not stopped, Pakistan would become another Afghanistan for which present rulers will be held responsible.
Mr Bhatti urged all democratic and moderate forces to join hands and unite to fight Talibanisation which had become a serious threat to the existence of Pakistan
He demanded the government to disband the Jamia Hafsa brigade and take legal action against clerics involved in keeping women and foreigners in illegal confinement.
Shahbaz Bhatti criticized the article 41, section 2, of constitution baring the minorities from becoming head of state. We reject this discriminatory article and will challenge this unjust, undemocratic and inhumane section of the constitution.
He said that minorities in Pakistan are victimized, persecuted and terrorized due to their faith. "We'll not compromise over minority rights and faith and allow the rulers to exploit us through "black laws" that are still been in force, usurping rights of minorities
He said that those who consider us inferior citizens should bear it in mind that our forefathers had also rendered sacrifices for the creation of Pakistan and we too have equal rights in this country. We won't allow some religious extremists to make the entire country hostage and impose their own extremist views on the entire society
Dr. Om Parkash, leader of Hindu community said, "It is the time that religious minorities should unite under the umbrella of All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA) for the attainment of their rights." He said, "The Hindu community in Pakistan stands with Mr. Shahbaz Bhatti and APMA through thick and thin".
Sardar Ram Singh, leader of Sikh community said, "We always struggled for peace, tolerance and humanity but in return face discrimination. " He appreciated the services and sacrifices of Mr. Shahbaz Bhatti for the rights of religious minorities and said that the Sikh community and other religious minorities pose full confidence and trust upon the dynamic and courageous leadership of Shahbaz Bhatti.
APMA NWFP President Prince Javed, Hindu delegates, Sikh delegates, MPA Punjab Assembly Chaudhry Naveed Amir Jeewa, MPA Punjab Assembly Parvez Rafiq, Khalid Gill and former MPA Sindh Assembly Michael Javed and other also spoke on the occasion
A unanimous resolution was passed by the participants of the programme, reposing confidence in the leadership of Mr. Shahbaz Bhatti Chairman, All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA) and pledged to continue their struggle till the achievement of their rights.
APMA Chairman Shahbaz Bhatti along with APMA provincial executive members visited the historical and famous worship place of Sikhs, Gurdwara Joga Singh in Peshawar.
Mr. Shahbaz Bhatti along with APMA delegation was warmly received by the Sikh community. The religious and community leaders of Sikh community appreciated the services and sacrifices of Mr. Shahbaz Bhatti to unite all religious minorities on one platform. The Sikh leaders announced their allegiance to All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA)
While speaking to Sikh community at Gurdwara, Shahbaz Bhatti demanded that the Minorities be given administrative control of their worship places (Gurdwaras & Temples etc) and a person belonging to a minority group be made head of the Evacuee Trust Property Board.