S.M.C. No. 1 of 2014 and others (Suo moto actions regarding suicide bomb attack of 222.9.2013 on the Church in Peshawar and regarding threats being given to Kalash tribe and Ismailies in Chitral)
Supreme Court of Pakistan
S.M.C. No. 1 of 2014 and C.M.A. Nos. 217-K/2014 in S.M.C. No. 1/2014, H.R.C. No. 29960-P/2012, C.M.A. No. 110-K/2014 in C.M.A. No. 737/2014, C.M.A. No. 120-K/2014 in C.M.A. No. 737/2014, C.M.A. No. 1388-K/2014 in C.M.A. No. 737/2014, C.M.A. No. 139-K/2014 in C.M.A. No. 737/2014, C.M.A. No. 142-K/2014 in C.M.A. No. 737/2014, Criminal M.A. No. 322/2014 in Criminal Original Petition No. 17-L/2013 & Constitution Petition No. 98/2011
19 June 2014
UN Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief
Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Article 20: freedom of religion
On its own motion, the Court under Article 184(3) of the Constitution issued this decision in response to a letter received from the Justice Helpline, an NGO, regarding a 2013 bombing of a church in Peshawar and threats being made towards religious minorities.
Issue and resolution:
Freedom of religion; discrimination against minorities. Amongst several orders aimed at preserving religious freedom for Pakistan’s minorities, the Court ordered that appropriate curricula be developed at school and college levels to promote a culture of religious and social tolerance.
The Court clarified and expanded the scope of Article 20 of the Constitution, stating that freedom of religion must “be construed liberally to include freedom of conscience, thought, expression, belief and faith”. Freedom of religion has “both individual and community based connotations”. Each citizen of Pakistan is free to exercise the right to profess, practise and propagate his/her religious views, even against the prevailing or dominant views of his/her own religious denomination or sect.
The Court looked to international examples and philosophical texts in holding that schools and colleges teach religious and social tolerance. In particular, in 1981 the United Nations resolved in its Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief that “the child shall be protected from any form of discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief. He shall be brought up in the spirit of understanding, tolerance, friendship among peoples, peace and universal brotherhood, respect for freedom of religion or belief of others, and in full consciousness that his energy and talents should be devoted to the service of his fellow men.”
Aside from the school curricula, the Court also ordered the government to establish a National Council to safeguard the rights of minorities.
This decision calls for concrete steps to be taken to protect the rights of all members of religious minorities, including children, in Pakistan.
According to the Asian Human Rights Commission, as at July 2014, the government has commenced a process to establish the National Council on Minorities’ Rights. The government and the opposition have reached a consensus on the framework including the number and names of its members. However the government has failed to consult key stakeholders being neither the representatives nor the minority groups themselves. Religious minority groups have termed such a move as undemocratic and have expressed reservations regarding the entire process of the formation of the National Council.
For more information, see: http://www.humanrights.asia/news/ahrc-news/AHRC-STM-139-2014.
Link to Full Judgment:
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