Public’s dispair and bureaucracy

The Supreme Court’s One-Man Commission (OMC) on Minority Rights has expressed serious concerns over slow action on the findings of the Forensic Audit Report (FAR) 2021-2022 of the properties of Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB). The Commission directed ETPB and the FIA to establish an effective inter-agency coordination mechanism to swiftly retrieve illegally occupied properties. The Commission also directed the chairman of ETPB to provide a copy of the report on ‘Geo Tagging’ of ETPB properties and to get the burnt record of the Nankana Sahib office reconstructed and verified by the Federal Audit.

The Constitution of Pakistan has guaranteed the safety and well-being of its minorities and ensured the protection of their properties, and religious places in the country. For that purpose, a separate ministry has been constituted to take care of minorities’ affairs while an independent and dedicated Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) had been established for the look after and protection of minorities’ religious places and properties across the country.

However, the body failed in fulfilling its primary responsibility due to massive corruption of the government officials, illegal land grabbing and lack of interest of the political leadership in government affairs over the past decades. There had been numerous incidents of violations of minorities’ rights and illegal occupation of ETPB’s properties by the land mafia in recent years.

The state of minorities’ affairs became so grave that the Supreme Court of Pakistan took a suo moto notice after a suicide attack on a Church in Peshawar and continuous harassment of the Ismaili Community and Kalash tribes in Gilgit and Chitral in late 2013.

The Supreme Court Bench held 23 hearings in the case and gave a historic judgment regarding minorities’ rights in June 2014 while ordering the government to form an independent National Minorities Commission for the protection and oversight of minorities’ rights, to work on the impending legislation on personal rights of Pakistanis minorities, and introduction of inclusive reforms in the education system in a bid to provide equal rights and dignified life to the minorities in the country. However, the political government and bureaucracy demonstrated their traditional slackness and undertook only a few cosmetic measures in the next four years. According to a report by the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), the government has implemented only 24 percent of the recommendations of the court while 76 % of work had been blown in the air.

The Supreme Court again took up the case in 2019, after a lot of hoe and cry from civil society and human rights defenders over the non-implementation of the court’s order, and formed a one-man commission and a four-member committee to work on the subject. The commission was awarded only three months by the court to implement the court order, but unluckily the One Man Commission(OMC) and four members committee did not abandon the bureaucratic footprint and still mulling on basic formalities, discussing its modus operandi and meeting schedule after the passage of three and a half years.

History reveals that the so-called Commissions and Committees had never accomplished their objectives in the past until the influential have some personal interest in their task because the Chairman and the members had always worried about their remunerations instead of the agenda of the body. Therefore, the public needs some volunteers, who do not extend their mandate in the greed of lucrative incentives and bulky stipends.