Aurat Publication & Information Service Foundation
Meeting for Religious Freedom Caucus in Sindh assembly held, Karachi


Meeting for Religious Freedom Caucus in Sindh assembly held

The representatives from Aurat Foundation met with government officials and politicians, specifically MPAs, to discuss the issue of religious freedom for religious minorities. Notable personalities that attended the meeting included MPAs such asMs. Mahtab Akber Rashidi PML-F, Ms. ShamimMumtaz PPP, Ms. Iram Khalid PPP along with individuals likeMr. Mohammad Umar who represented PPP at the event.  Apart from these dignitaries, Ms Mahnaz Rahman, Residential Director AF, Ms Erum Javed, Project Manager PRFI/TAF, Mr Imran Sangrasi and Ms Fareeda Tahir, Associate Program Manager AF also attended the event. 

The meeting started off with an introduction of the participants and the project itself. One of the representatives of the Aurat Foundation, MsFareeda Tahir stated that the project that they were currently working on, called Pakistan Religious Freedom Initiative, is being funded by The Asia Foundation She mentioned that historically Aurat Foundation was seen as just working for the rights of women. However, it is due to this project that Aurat Foundation is also being recognized as a champion of the rights of minorities. Under this project, AF is currently working on issues that include but are not limited to hate speech, forced conversion, forced marriages, quota problem, the behavior of the police and the response of the various political parties in light of this issue.

Ms Tahir said that another way in which they were working on tackling the problemwas the introduction of new legislation that would improve the conditions for religious minorities. It was for this purpose, that they had hired Ms. Maliha Zia Lari as a consultant, so that new bills could be drafted. She further mentioned that at the moment, non- Muslims were being hired for jobs in the government through a 5% quota. To ensure that this quota was set, they had met with the Secretary for Education, Secretary for Social Welfare, Secretary for Women Development, and government officials like Ombudsman Sindh,etc.

She then talked about their plans for the future which included making a Religious Freedom Caucus in the Sindh Assembly which is similar to the Women’s Caucus, present within the Assembly already. Moreover, she stated that this Caucus would include members of the provincial assembly from the mainstream parties and it would also include representatives from religious minorities. While talking about its significance, she mentioned that the caucus would serve as a platform for not just advocating religious freedom in Sindh but would also help in lobbying with other parliamentarians when it is time to draft bills, table important legislation and the establishment of minority wings in various political parties.

Ms ShamimMumtaz MPA-PPP said that there was a Minorities and Religious Affairs Committee in the Assembly at the moment and that Mr Ramesh is the Chairman of the Committee. MsMahtabRashdi then addressed the audience, and expressed solidarity with the cause. She also said that the staff of Aurat Foundation could be allowed to participate with permission from the concerned authorities. Finally, the meeting concluded on a positive note with a vote of thanks by Ms Mahnaz Rahman.