The Constitution of Pakistan 1973 incorporates the Objectives Resolution as Article 2-A. Two clauses of the Objectives Resolution deal with “minorities” in Pakistan. The first states: “Wherein adequate provision shall be made for the minorities freely to profess and practise their religions and develop their cultures”. The second states: “Wherein adequate provision shall be made to safeguard the legitimate interests of minorities and backward and depressed classes”. Then in principles of policy under Article 36, the Constitution states “The State shall safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of minorities, including their due representation in the Federal and Provincial services.”These constitutional clauses have never been acted upon. The minorities — especially that forced minority Ahmadis- are not allowed to “freely to profess and practise their faith” in Pakistan today. The provisions made to safeguard the “legitimate interests” of minorities are less than adequate. The state has failed to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of minorities, let alone secure their due representation in the Federal and provincial services. The five percent quota earmarked for them is hardly ever filled. By and large the few government jobs Non-Muslims find themselves occupying are menial jobs as sanitary workers and the like.So what are the ‘legitimate’ rights and interests of minorities? The first and foremost legitimate right of a minority is to live their lives freely unfettered by the tyranny of the majority. Countless blasphemy cases, often trumped up and false, show that this is not the case in our Islamic Republic. The minorities have no recourse because even their representation in the assemblies in form of reserved seats is actually dependent on the sweet will of majority Muslim parties. For all practical purposes the reserved seats that Non-Muslims have in the National Assembly, the Senate and the provincial assemblies are worse than useless to them. Instead all they have are empty slogans about how well Pakistan treats its minorities and how it is a sacred Islamic duty to protect the minorities.The only way the state can actually fulfill its constitutional duty to safeguard legitimate rights and interests of minorities is if the state allows them to have effective real representationThe only way the state can actually fulfill its constitutional duty to safeguard legitimate rights and interests of minorities is if the state allows them to have effective real representation. The first way would be allow the minorities to have a double vote i.e. in addition to electing their representatives as any other citizen through joint electorate, a separate vote on reserved seats for minorities. If this is not acceptable because on the face of it this violates the principle of joint electorate, the second way is to reserve general seats for Non-Muslim candidates in constituencies where they form 20 percent or more of the voters. That would ensure that at least a certain percentage of those elected would be from the minorities. There is precedent for that in India where Dalits have reserved constituencies. Given that Pakistan’s religious minorities are somewhere around five percent, we are talking about a paltry 17 or 18 seats in the National Assembly. The overwhelming Muslim majority of Pakistan should show grace and concede these to the Non-Muslims of the country. It would go a long way in showing the world that we treat our citizens equally no matter what their faith.Similarly at least five percent of all cabinet portfolios at both the Federal and provincial levels should go to Non-Muslims with the number being higher in Sindh where there is a larger population of minorities living. This should be written into the constitution. Even in purely Islamic institutions like the Council of Islamic Ideology and the Federal Shariat Court there should be representation for Non-Muslims with a communal veto to ensure that none of the decisions taken in these institutions infringe upon the legitimate rights and interests of minorities. Only a communal veto can be an effective safeguard against tyranny of the majority. Pakistan has barred Non-Muslims from becoming President since 1956 and Prime Minister since 1973. This is also a form of discrimination but one, which seems to have become non-negotiable for the Muslim majority. Ideally this should not exist but if there must be this bar given Pakistan’s status as an Islamic state, surely the Non-Muslims can be compensated in another way, such as the introduction of a Vice President and Deputy Prime Minister mandatorily drawn from the minorities. Our legislators can also reserve the office of the speaker of the National Assembly for a Non-Muslim in deference to the fact that the very first person to preside over the inaugural session of Constituent Assembly of Pakistan was Jogindranath Mandal. There can be a Federal minorities’ commission drawn from minority communities which can not only advise the Federal Government on minority issues but can adjudicate complaints of minority communities and redress serious grievances of the kind that have led to mass exodus of Christians, Hindus and Ahmadis from Pakistan.Measures like this will go a long way in making Non-Muslims feel like they belong to Pakistan as much as any Muslim does. Remember a country is only as good as it treats its minorities and marginalised communities. Our score on these counts is very low despite the obligations that the Constitution of Pakistan imposes on the state. It is time that those fine words are supplemented by a concerted effort on part of government to ensure that every citizen of Pakistan, no matter what his or her faith, is made to feel like an equal citizen with equal rights and obligations. If Pakistan can do this, it will show the world how a Muslim majority country can treat its Non-Muslim minorities justly and fairly. The writer is a practising lawyer. He blogs at http://globallegalforum.blogspot.com and his twitter handle is @therealylh Published in Daily Times, September 18th 2017.