Islamabad: A Hindu lawmaker in Pakistan has submitted a bill in the lower house of Parliament seeking that religious minorities in the country be constitutionally referred to as 'non-Muslims' to end the discrimination and establish equality and justice for every citizen.
Keeso Mal Kheeal Das, a member of the National Assembly from the Opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party, approached the National Assembly with a private member bill under rule 118 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the National Assembly, 2007. Called as the Constitution Amendment Act, 2021, the bill aims to end discrimination against Pakistani non-Muslims who have been also referred in the constitution as minorities.
He suggested that the bill should be adopted and brought into effect immediately. The government has not opposed the bill so far and the matter has been referred to the relevant standing committee. After it is vetted by a bipartisan committee of the house, it will be presented for voting.
Das is of the view that the inaccurate reference as minorities gives the impression of being second-class citizens. “It is against the spirit of the Constitution, 1973, to discriminate against a large number of population by declaring them a minority, when the sacrifices of that population are remarkable in every sphere of life for the prosperity, growth and bright future of the country,” Das said in the bill.
“The word ‘Minority’ is used four times (in the constitution) while the word ‘non-Muslims’ is used 15 times, which reflects the intent of the makers of the Constitution. Therefore, the anomaly shall be omitted by substituting the word minority with the word non-Muslims,” he said. He said that the constitutional amendment will be a constructive effort to establish equality and justice for every citizen to build Pakistan as a home for everyone.
Pakistan is a predominantly a Muslim country but non-Muslims make more than 3.5 per cent of its about 220 million population. Hindus form the biggest minority community in Pakistan. According to official estimates, 75,00,000 Hindus live in Pakistan. However, according to the community, over 90,00,000 Hindus are living in the country.
The majority of Pakistan's Hindu population is settled in Sindh province where they share culture, traditions and language with Muslim residents. They often complain of harassment by the extremists. Other minority communities include Christians, Ahmadis, Baha'is, Sikhs, Parsis and Buddhists.