Kashif Nawab

In Pakistan, the laid out procedure set by the government to grant an NOC (No Objection Certificate) for the construction of a mosque, church or temple involves the district coordination officer (DCO) sending the request to a ‘Masjid Committee’ for their opinion. This committee consists of only Muslim members that can lead to discrimination for minorities in such cases.

There is no government mechanism to register a church in Pakistan or get permission for its construction, according to Bishop Abraham Daniel of Baptist Church, Sahiwal. Minorities’ representatives feel this is unfair as they are not represented in the decision-making committee and urge the government to instead establish ‘Interfaith Committees’ for this purpose.

Reverend Amjid Niamat of the Presbyterian Church of Pakistan said there are no separate forms of registration of churches and minorities have to use the forms of mosques and Islamic seminaries with columns irrelevant to minorities as per their beliefs.

Moreover, at present, the marriage certificate form issued by the DCO is based on the Muslim faith and also features irrelevant columns that do not apply to minorities but they are compelled to fill the same form as there is no separate form.

Reverend Jahanzeb Hameed, in-charge St Paul Church Haroonabad said the Punjab Government has developed a policy to register all the pastors in the respective districts with the Punjab Ministry of Minority Affairs. Most of the pastors are deployed in denominations of church and are eligible to be transferred from one district to another. “Therefore, I urge the Government of Punjab to register the relevant church and not the pastors as they keep changing,” said Rev Hameed, adding that the pastors can be enrolled at the church as they come and go.

Shireen Aslam, a human rights activist in Attock, said the National Database Registration Authority does not register marriage certificates with their office at some places and registers birth certificates only, thus creating a hurdle for people to register their marriages. This is especially true for the registration of minorities’ marriages, she claimed, adding that the authority only accepts marriage certificates by renowned churches of Pakistan and not others.

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