People’s Commission for Minorities Rights (PCMR), a voluntary human rights watch dog, has question the hasty manner motive regarding the amendment to, The Protection of Communal Ordinance 2002. The amendment passed on 7 June 2021 seeks to shift authorization of sales/ transfer/purchase/gift the properties belonging to minorities, from the Federal Government to the “ministry concerned”, supposedly, the Federal Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony.
PCMR’s Chairperson, Peter Jacob, and members Justice (R) Kalash Nath Kohli, and Fatima Atif, in a joint statement on behalf of PCMR emphatically rejected the idea of passing an amendment to the ordinance that gives absolute power to an entity or person. They expressed the apprehensions that this amendment will lead to abuse of power, transparency and loss of properties belonging to minority communities. They said that while, the government failed to solicit proper and broad consultation on the matter, the objective explained in amendment bill also fails to justify the purpose concentration of power with regard to authorization of sale/purchase/ transfer and gift of these properties to fewer persons.
“The arbitrary nature of legislation and measures adopted for amendment to section 6 of the Protection to Communal Properties Ordinance 2002 are sufficient grounds to suspect that concentration of powers to the Ministry of Religious Affairs, will deprived minorities of rightful use of these properties” Said Peter Jacob Executive Director of Center for Social Justice.
A per the law (Communal Properties Ordinance 2002) the recommendation process involves the National Minorities Commission as recommendatory form for this authorization, it is contradiction in terms that government set up a National Commission for Minorities in May 2002 which is criticized for its redundancy. Hence on one hand, there are complaints of massive abuse, land grabbing and illegal occupation of properties belonging to minority communities, while on the other hand this amendment will avoid accountability by a broader body.
Therefore it PCMR is of opinion that the amendment will make situation more complicated. PCMR suggested a comprehensive review and analysis of the problems related to communal properties before introducing a law for this purpose.
“On one hand the properties belonging to Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, and Jews have been usurped with impunity, while the officials of the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony have been facing charges of embezzlement, etc.” The statement issued by PCMR further stated that therefore we request the Chairman of Senate and heads of political parties represented there, not to pass this bill, but rather commission a full review of the situation and existing law that should pave way for tabling a comprehensive law to protect the communal properties.”