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Report finds discrimination against non-Muslims in educational institutions

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There is a need for a radical shift, reforms in legislation, teachers’ training and behavioural transformation of society

HAH Report

Islamabad: Discrimination in educational institutions based on religion, faith or belief is rampant, says a report stressing on radical shift, reforms in legislation, teachers’ training and behavioural transformation of society as a whole.

The report titled “Education and Inequality: Discerning the Foundation of Citizenry”, jointly prepared by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) and the Institute of Development Research and Corresponding Capabilities (IDRAC) was launched at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) here on Monday.

It was revealed that around 60% of non-Muslim students experience or feel being discriminated against and disrespected, whereas, 70% of non-Muslim teachers faced discrimination based on their faith. Similarly, 72% of the parents reported that their children are being discriminated in schools and colleges because of their faith.

The study was conducted in five select districts of Punjab, including Bahawalpur, Multan, Khanewal, Nankana Sahib and Gujranwala, where around 200 non-Muslim students, 40 teacher, and 40 parents were consulted to collect the data.

While presenting the findings of the report, Executive Director, the Institute of Development Research and Corresponding Capabilities (IDRAC) and lead author of the report Amjad Nazeer, said that in order to revolutionise the society, there is a dire need of taking reforms measures to end inequality and religious discrimination in our educational institutions. “There is a rise in incidents of discrimination in educational institutions based on religion, faith or belief”, he said adding there are different political, historical, academic and religious elements that are responsible for collective societal discriminatory behaviour towards non-Muslim minorities of the society. He said that owing to fear and threat to life more than two-thirds of the affected individuals (about 80%), including students and teachers, never bothered to lodge a complaint. He urged the need for establishing a specialized body to redress the grievances and discrimination against non-Muslim communities. Also, there is a need to educate society to ensure religious tolerance, he stressed.

Nasreen Azhar, Human Rights Activist and Council Member of HRCP said over the years religious tolerance is on decline and rise in bigotry in our society. “It is unfortunate that the discrimination prevails at all levels of the society and there is a state of denial on such extreme level of discrimination”, she lamented adding unless we accept and acknowledge the problem, we cannot resolve the issue. She called upon the government to initiate stringent reforms to end all kinds of discrimination and build a society based on the principle of tolerance and equality.

Jennifer J, Jivan, Executive Director Christian Study Center (CSC) said the findings and cases presented in the report show the level of fragmentation in the society which is fast spreading in around Pakistan. She said there is a need to change the negative mindset of the society through effective reforms measure at basic education level. She urged the government to implement the international conventions and treaties, which Pakistan signed and ratified, regarding the elimination of all kinds of intolerance and discrimination based on religion or belief.

Ahmed Saleem, Renowned Progressive Writer, Historian, and Poet said that to ensure equal rights for every citizen and to end all forms of discrimination, we need drastic changes in the constitutions. “There should be an open debate in the parliament for drastic reforms in the constitutions”, he stressed adding it is now the responsibility of all of us, especially the intellectual class of the society, to strive for a tolerant and progressive society. Moazzam Shareef Bhatti, Director Advocacy and Outreach, SDPI while moderating the seminar said that the report is a good contribution to the literature and will help the policymakers for informed decision making. He said inequalities, discrimination and intolerance remained a major challenge of the country which requires urgent attention to ensure a peaceful society.

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