Friday, July 1, 2011

Pakistan abolishes cabinet office for religious minorities

Pakistan has abolished the Federal Ministry for religious minorities. This was confirmed to Fides by the Catholic Akram Gill, Minister of State for Religious Minorities, in what is, in fact, the last day of his term. The abolition is part of a general plan of decentralization, already approved by the Parliament of Pakistan, known as "18th amendment" to the governmental structure. The plan, already enforced in the past for the first two phases, today reached the final stage. The government abolishes seven federal ministries, transferring their powers to the regions, for the following sectors: religious minorities, food and agriculture, health, environment, labor, women's development, sports.

Yesterday, June 29, Prime Minister Raza Gilani chaired the summit, which finally approved the final phase of the project, making it immediately enforceable. The government speaks with satisfaction of this "historic step", and "most important reorganization, democratically speaking , since 1947, to give greater autonomy to the provinces". In the first phase, the 18th amendment provided for the decentralization of responsibilities regarding local development, population, special initiatives, young people. The second step was the turn of education, culture, tourism, social development. Minister Akram Gill, contacted by Fides at the conclusion of the government summit, without hiding a certain disappointment, said: "We have no alternative. It is the Pakistani Parliament’s choice, which must be respected. Prime Minister Gilani, however, ensured that within a week, a new Federal Ministry for interfaith harmony and human rights will be created, which should absorb some of the delegations concerning the religious minorities, safeguarding their welfare. We look forward to this. It is hoped that the new Ministry may work and defend the rights of minorities, like the previous ministry".

Disappointment and bewilderment among the religious minorities: the Christian Julius Salik, former MP and minister, president of the "World Minorities Alliance", announced an appeal to the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

The Federal Ministry for religious minorities was created in 2008 by the newly elected government led by the Pakistan Peoples Party, and the department had been entrusted to the Catholic Shabhaz Bhatti, killed in an attack on March 2, 2011

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