Pakistan Supreme Court orders government to protect religious minorities

Christians across the country took to the streets to protest after 127 people were killed in the bombing of All Saints Church, Peshawar. (Photo: World Watch Monitor)

Pakistan's Supreme Court ruled two weeks ago that the government must take steps to protect the country's Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, and other religious minorities.

Chief Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jilani acknowledged the persecution that non-Muslims in Pakistan endure, and placed the blame squarely on the country's leaders.

The justices ruled that the government must create a National Council for Minority Rights, a special law enforcement division to protect non-Muslim houses of worship, and form a think tank to combat religious intolerance.

The government must also prosecute those who distribute intolerant propaganda, protect religious minority children who are persecuted at school, develop objective learning curricula, and enforce an affirmative action quota in the job sector.

The ruling came days after Christians in Lahore protested the seizure of church properties by the government. The UK Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS) reported that more than ten properties – including hospitals, Christian schools, and a church – were seized.

CLAAS was cautiously optimistic after the Supreme Court decision.

"Keeping in view the government's treatment of minorities, it is difficult to say whether government will take interest immediately to implement the order," the interdenominational organization said in a statement.

"We can only hope that after such clear and cogent instructions from the Chief Justice, the government ofPakistantakes positive steps towards making minorities feel secure in their country."

The Supreme Court ruling was made in the aftermath of the September 2013 All Saints Church suicide bombing, which killed over 100 people. Although authorities knew of a possible Pakistani Taliban attack at the church days before the bombing, no additional police officers were sent to protect the congregants. The church's usual appointment of two guards was its only defense. The Court found that the government failed to protect its citizens.