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Marriage, divorce laws for minorities on cards: PM Ashraf

11 December, 2012

ISLAMABAD: Terming minorities an integral part of the Pakistani society, Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf has said the government is considering promulgation of personal laws for them, including separate marriage and divorce bills for Christians and Hindus.

Addressing a function to mark the International Human Rights Day at the Prime Minister's Secretariat, Prime Minister Raja said the step would fulfil a longstanding demand of the minorities and bring them at par with the Muslim citizens of the state. The event was held to commemorate the passage of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 by the United Nations' General Assembly, and it was attended by federal ministers, parliamentarians, ambassadors, representatives of various UN agencies, non-governmental organisations and human rights activists.

The prime minister said minorities had played an important role in the development of the country. He noted that the government had increased the number of seats for minorities in Senate besides fixing a quota in civil services. He said Pakistan's role in protecting human rights had been recognised globally and said the country had been elected a member of the UN Human Rights Council for three years, with 171 countries out of 191 supporting its membership.

He termed this a recognition of the government's efforts to further the cause of human rights in Pakistan as well as of its standing in the comity of nations. He said the government was considering the appointment of human rights defenders under the Ministry of Human Rights. He said Pakistan would continue fighting the war against terrorism to secure the future of its children.

"We will never accept the narrow-minded and bigoted agenda of extremists," he said and urged the people of Pakistan to join hands with the government and the civil society for promotion of human rights. He reiterated the government's commitment to create an environment conducive for peace, democracy and human rights in the country. Interlinking democracy and peace, Prime Minister Raja said the road to durable peace was paved by representative and effective democratic institutions.

"Our tenure is a story of struggle for democracy, nurturing of institutions, upholding of rights of the marginalised sections of society and fight against non-state elements who threaten the life and property of our citizens," he said. "We lost our beloved leader Shaheed Mohtrama Benazir Bhutto, and thousands of our soldiers, policemen, law-enforcement personnel and civilians in this fight," the Prime Minister said. He said Islam considers human rights sacrosanct and accords them top priority. The Charter of Madina presented by the Holy Prophet (PBUH) stipulated equal political, cultural and religious rights to the non-Muslims, he added. Raja said the last sermon of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) is a complete charter of human rights. He also cited the Holy Quran, saying it clearly mentions human rights and makes their observance binding upon the Muslims.

The premier said Muslims learnt the lesson of egalitarianism and human rights 1400 years ago. He said the United Nations' Declaration of Human Rights was a comprehensive document and a solemn expression of the world's commitment to secure the fundamental rights of all individuals irrespective of any discrimination. He said the day serves as a symbol for the protection of life, dignity, liberty, honour and security of each person living on this planet.


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