Chief Justice Muhammad Ameer Bhatti Emphasizes Equality in Lahore Minorities' Rights Conference

On February 12, 2024, a vital conference on Minorities' Rights was held at a local hotel in Lahore. The event, organized by the Implementation Minorities Right Forum (IMRF) in partnership with Praise TV, was themed “Constitutional Rights of Minorities and Responsibilities of the State of Pakistan.” The Chief Justice of the Lahore High Court, Muhammad Ameer Bhatti, attended as the chief guest.

Prominent speakers included The Most Rev Dr. Azad Marshall, Pastor Shahzad Siddique, Peter Jacob, the Executive Director of the Centre for Social Justice, Mr. Nadeem, Mr. Pervez Masih, and Adnan Shamim Bhatti, President of the Christian Lawyer’s Association of Pakistan.

The conference commenced with recitations from the Holy Quran and the Holy Bible. Samuel Payara, Chairman of IMRF, presented the organization's report, extending thanks to all participants and media representatives. Pastor Shahzad Siddique then displayed his charity work through a video presentation.

Dr. Marshall cited Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah's speech from August 11, 1947, focusing on the rights of Pakistani minorities. Peter Jacob elaborated on the constitutional rights of minorities, highlighting the lack of implementation and the pressure on missionary schools regarding Islamic studies. Adnan Shamim Bhatti expressed gratitude towards IMRF for organizing such a timely conference.

Chief Justice Bhatti underscored the constitutional guarantees that ensure equality for all citizens, irrespective of faith. He emphasized the shared responsibility of translating constitutional principles into concrete actions, particularly concerning minority rights. He invoked Jinnah's visionary ideals of a just and inclusive society.

The Chief Justice also spotlighted various constitutional provisions safeguarding minority rights and the judiciary's essential role in upholding these rights. He referenced key Supreme Court judgments, including Al-Jehad Trust v. Federation of Pakistan, which supported the appointment of non-Muslims as judges, and suo moto Case No.1 of 2014, addressing attacks on minority places of worship.

In conclusion, Chief Justice Bhatti reiterated the moral and religious imperative to protect minority rights. The conference ended with Chief Justice Muhammad Ameer Bhatti presenting shields to volunteer lawyers, recognizing their efforts in defending minority rights. The recipients included Adnan Shamim Bhatt, Kashif Niamat, Liaqat John, Niaz Amir, Ms. Rebecca Farhat, Imran Randhawa, Ms. Mishal Shams, Rev. Fr. Khalid Mukhtar, and Mr. Emmanuel Pervez, President of IMRF.

This conference represents a significant step towards recognizing and tackling the challenges faced by minorities in Pakistan. It highlights the need for effective implementation of constitutional rights and the state’s responsibility in ensuring justice and equality for all citizens.