An agreement between the Governments of India and Pakistan in relation to security and rights of minorities was signed in Delhi on 8 April 1950. The Nehru-Liaquat agreement was signed in the backdrop of unprecedented and large-scale migration of persons belonging to minority communities between the two countries following the East Pakistan and Noakhali riots.
The Nehru-Liaquat agreement encompasses inter alia, complete equality of citizenship, irrespective of religion, a full sense of security in respect of life, culture, property and personal honor, freedom of movement within each country and freedom of occupation, speech and worship subject to law and morality. Both India and Pakistan agreed on terms that Members of Minorities shall have equal opportunity with members of majority community to participate in public life, to hold political office. Both the Government declared that these rights are fundamental. Further, inter-alia both countries in relation to Migrants from East Bengal, West Bengal, Assam and Tripura where communal violence occurred agreed on terms that there shall be freedom of movement and protection during transit, the rights of ownership in or occupancy of the immovable property of migrants shall not be disturbed and If during his absence, such property is disturbed, it shall be returned to him, provided that he returns by 31st December 1950. Where restoration of such immovable property to the migrants who return within the stipulated time is not possible the Government concerned shall take appropriate steps to rehabilitate them. The scope of these terms was General and based on exigency and the prevailing situation at the material time to any part of India and Pakistan.
In a nutshell, the idea behind the signing of the pact was to provide a framework and obligations for the treatment of minorities in both the countries after Independence. After the signing the agreement, India protected its minorities, whilst Pakistan failed to protect the minorities. In fact in India, these rights are guaranteed to all minorities by the Constitution. Similar provisions also exist in the Objectives Resolution adopted by the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan. There was always doubt on how Pakistan is going to treat the minority Hindus. The doubt became more evident when Pakistan declared itself as an Islamic State in 1973. The violence that followed between the two states after the partition still has an impact on the two countries until today.
Two Sikh businessmen were shot dead on May 15, 2022 by unidentified gunmen in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and state protection appears to be moot. Pakistan has failed to protect the Minority Hindus in different time lines.
Anti-Hindu protests were staged outside temples in cities and towns of southern Pakistan where most of the Pakistani Hindus live. One Hindu man was killed and four temples were damaged by Muslim demonstrators. Muslims attacked temples across Pakistan and the government of this overwhelmingly Muslim nation closed offices and schools for one day to protest the destruction of the Babri mosque in India. Marchers shouted slogans such as “Crush India” and “Death to Hinduism”. In Lahore, the capital of Punjab, Muslims used a bulldozer, hammers, and their bare hands to demolish the Jain temple near Punjab University.
According to National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) of Pakistan, the Hindu population of Pakistan may be around eight million today. The Hindu population of Pakistan is geographically concentrated in the rural areas of the Sindh province, where more than 90 per cent of Pakistani Hindus live. Small groups of Hindus can be found in Balochistan and Punjab as well. The Hindus of Pakistan residing in the interior of Sindh or Baluchistan belong principally to the so-called untouchable class, the Scheduled Caste Hindus. Many of them are landless bonded labourers, working on the lands of big Sindhi landlords (known as Jagirdars). Those who live in towns and cities also have a menial standing and are generally employed as sweepers or Jamadars.” In March 2019, protestors in Sindh attacked and burned Hindu shops and houses of worship following two incidents: in the first, a cleric accused a Hindu veterinarian of wrapping medicine with paper printed with Qur’anic verses; in the second, a student leveled blasphemy charges against a Hindu principal. In July 2020, the government backtracked on the decision to allow construction of a Hindu temple in Islamabad, largely under duress from religious groups and parties. The tackling of religious extremism has remain a low priority for the government of Pakistan, despite the fact that incidents of communal violence and religious and sectarian hatred have become a regular feature of Pakistan’s security and political landscape. In one of these incidents, the shrine of a Hindu saint was vandalised and torched in Karak.
The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), establishes the obligations of State parties to respect and ensure racial equality and the right to be free from racial discrimination. Several other human rights treaties also contain prohibitions on racial discrimination and other forms of discrimination, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
The Human Rights Council, the central human rights institution of the United Nations (“UN”), has affirmed that “racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance condoned by governmental policies violate human rights, as established in the relevant international and regional human rights instruments, and are incompatible with democracy, the rule of law and transparent and accountable governance.” The Human Rights Council has also urged “[g]overnments to summon the necessary political will to take decisive steps to combat racism in all its forms and manifestations.”
As a State party, India has committed to upholding its human rights obligations under ICERD, ICCPR, and other international human rights law treaties “in good faith,” and may not invoke “the provisions of its internal law as justification for its failure to perform a treaty.” In December 2019, the Indian Parliament passed into law the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA). It is a courageous step that provides a fast track to Indian citizenship for minorities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.
With few exceptions, States must guarantee non-nationals equal enjoyment of civil, political, social, and economic rights. For example, under its ICCPR commitments, India may only treat non-citizens differently in policies pertaining to voting rights and holding political office. Racial equality-based human rights obligations further require India to ensure that all non- nationals, regardless of their national origin or migration status, enjoy equal due process in residency, citizenship, asylum.. Etc…[…]. Whilst Pakistan has failed to remain consistent with the agreement signed between both the countries in 1950.
In our considered view the Nehru-Liaquat agreement of 8 April 1950 was only of General Scope with no binding effect. As a result Pakistan failed to protect the Minority Hindus in its soil, whilst India remained consistent. In fact it was obligation of the Government of India to protect the Minority Hindus. The Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) is certainly for the welfare of those minorities who are facing persecution on the grounds of religion in countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. India must frame Rules of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act to provide the Minorities with Durable Solution that includes local integration.