Islamabad:June 15:“As I belong to a religion other than Islam I could not compete with a Muslim fellow, who obtained admission in a medical college on the basis of being a Hafiz-e-Quran,” disappointingly said by Haroon Arif. The prospectus of the University of Health Sciences (UHS) 2010-2011 on its page 50, while explaining the admission process, mentioned that 20 extra marks will be added to a Hafiz-e-Quran. Haroon, after failing to find any policy - equivalent to Hafiz-e-Quran - for non-Muslims in the prospectus of UHS, contacted a Catholic Church Organisation to seek legal support. Haroon’s overall aggregate was summed up to 78.18 percent, which missed the last merit for MBBS with the difference of 3.78 percent. “Had I been granted same relief on the basis of my religious education as was awarded to Muslim Hafiz-e-Quran, I would have secured admission to fulfil my long held inspirations of becoming a doctor,” Haroon shared.
On behalf of Haroon, a petition, no 54803, was filed in the Lahore High Court (LHC) in January this year, claiming the same relief be granted to Haroon in equivalence to his three-year study at church. It was also prayed in the petition that a permanent policy be made to avoid any discrimination with regard to awarding additional 20 marks to Muslim Hafiz only or open merit be made a standard by excluding this policy in its entirety. The same petition was placed before the division bench of the LHC in December 2011, which allowed to place on record some documents/working paper with the complete course for Christian students that would be equivalent to the certificate issued to Hafiz-e-Quran. In January 2012, the registered churches of Pakistan jointly submitted a working paper, which recommended a Christian Bible course of three years to be considered as a basis for granting 20 marks.
On January 5, the LHC division bench disposed of the writ petition by passing an order to the UHS to attend the grievances of the petitioner and decide the matter in one month. The order also said that if UHS is not a competent authority then the matter be sent to the department/ministry concerned.
Haroon was called for a hearing on January 23 by UHS additional secretary but not offered any redressal during the one-hour meeting. One month passed and no communication was received by UHS, informed by Kiran Afzaal, advocate and legal adviser to a Catholic Organisation. Thereafter, the petitioner went for contempt of court in May against UHS for not complying with the order of January 5. The Health Department, through health secretary, submitted a reply – order No SLO/WP-29468/2011 - on May 25. Concluding, this order stated that there is non-existence of any provision of such extra 20 marks to any non-Muslim candidates. It also said that prayer of the petitioner to consider him equivalent to Hafiz-e-Quran for admission in MBBS/BDS is rejected. Furthermore, it also emphasised that this policy was instituted in mid-80s and was never challenged. Finally the petition was disposed of on May 28 with the statement of honourable judges that the matter can go into further litigation for public interest.
Dr Imdad Hussain, a professor of public policy at Forman Christian College Lahore, said awarding 20 points to huffaz in educational admissions was unjust to non-huffaz. He termed the policy discriminatory. He said General Ziaul Haq introduced this policy in 1981 to patronise madrassa graduates and huffaz in educational institutions. Thus, by using religious sentiments for political purposes, Zia got some benefits, however, it deprived many non-huffaz students of the opportunity to get college and university admissions despite strong academic performance.
It is pertinent to mention that the preface of the prospectus of UHS claims that its policies will be fair, equitable and encourage diversity. However, the policy of awarding 20 marks only benefits Muslim Hafiz-e-Quran.
This concern was raised by Parliamentary Secretary on Law and Minority and Member of the Punjab Assembly Khalil Tahir Sindhu in the Punjab Assembly during the 38th session on June 13. He demanded that religious minorities should be equally compensated against this policy of awarding 20 marks for Hafiz-e-Quran. He informed the scribe that same matter was also brought in Punjab Assembly in 2008 but did not meet any success. However, MPA Sindhu is willing to knock the doors of the Supreme Court under Article 184(3) of the constitution of Pakistan.
The articles 22, 25, 36 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan clearly states that equality of citizenry should be ensured and no discrimination will be made on the basis of religion.Daily Times.