ISLAMABAD - The government and opposition Monday finally reached a consensus on forming ‘National Commission for Minorities’ comprising 10 members from different religions including Islam, Christianity, Hinduism and Sikhism.

The deliberation on the commission was pending for over a year between main opposition PPP and ruling PML-N, but now both sides have agreed a framework to set up a formal body for the protection of minorities’ rights and promotion of interfaith harmony in this Muslim majority country.

“Ten names have been finalised (for proposed commission) and notification will be issued shortly,” Finance Minister Ishaq Dar told the media after meeting with Leader of Opposition in National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah. On the directions of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Dar said, consultation process was completed in the meeting with Khursheed Shah. He said four of the ten commission members would be Muslim, two Christians, two Hindus, one Parsi and one Sikh.

Talking to media, Khursheed Shah said that both sides have deliberated on the names for the commission. Responding to a question about protest programs of PAT and PTI, he said, “System should not be destabilised as it would be harmful for country.“ To a question about differences of Interior Minister Ch Nisar with his party leadership, he said that it was internal matter of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz.

The Supreme Court had issued a judgment last month (June 7) that governments and other institutions should take proactive lead to ensure the rights of minorities. “Mere textual pledges in the constitution, though important, are not enough to ensure that those rights would be honoured in practice,” read the 32-page judgment authored by then Chief Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani.

The court therefore directed the federal government to constitute a taskforce tasked with developing a strategy of religious tolerance. The judgment asked the federal government to take appropriate steps to ensure that hate speech in social media is discouraged and the delinquents are brought to justice under the law.

Later, the opposition and government benches also held a meeting in connection with consultation for the appointment of the chief election commissioner (CEC). Shah told media that he and Ishaq Dar in their meeting also deliberate on this issue. The meeting between finance minister and PPP leader was a follow-up of a letter written by Shah to the PM on June 25. “I have also written a letter to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to appoint CEC and name was also sent to him from opposition,” Shah added.

Khursheed Shah also met with second largest party’s senior lawmakers Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Shireen Mazari to discuss the matter of CEC appointment. Currently, the post is being manned by an acting CEC, the latest appointment to the task being that of Supreme Court judge Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali.

Talking to media, PTI lawmaker Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that a credible person should be appointed as CEC. About their anti-government protest program, he said, “Tsunami march will be held on August 14 and it will not be against democratic system.“