On Minorities Day, calls for Quaid’s principles of tolerance

Published August 12, 2015
Members of the Christian community stage a protest outside National Press Club on Tuesday seeking equal rights for the minorities. — Online
Members of the Christian community stage a protest outside National Press Club on Tuesday seeking equal rights for the minorities. — Online

ISLAMABAD/RAWALPINDI: At an event in the federal capital on Tuesday, community leaders of various faiths lashed out against officials for supporting extremist elements in the country and called upon the government to improve the state of religious minorities.

Speaking on the occasion of Minorities Day, religious leaders called for the implementation of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s principles of tolerance and religious freedom.

Minorities Day has been observed in Pakistan since 2009, as a result of efforts made by former federal minister Shahbaz Bhatti, who was killed in March 2011.

The day is observed on August 11 as on this day in 1947, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah made a historic speech to the Constituent Assembly, outlining the kind of state, he envisioned Pakistan to be.

“You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed -that has nothing to do with the business of the state,” the Quaid had said.

On Tuesday, Dr Paul Bhatti, the brother of the martyred minister Shahbaz Bhatti, demanded that the government declare August 11 as ‘National Harmony Day’. He was speaking at an event organised by Shahbaz Bhatti Memorial Trust and All Pakistan Minorities Alliance to mark Minorities Day.

the chief guest on the occasion, opposition leader Khursheed Shah, stopped short of acknowledging his party’s failure in countering extremism and taking action against faith-based terrorism.

He said that while some people have hijacked religious freedom in the country, the PPP is committed towards bringing all citizens on one platform.

Mr Shah said that he had been raising his voice against the injustices of religious minorities in the parliament and this is part of his party’s manifesto.

Khursheed Shah was the minister of religious affairs during the tenure of the last government and he recounted the contributions made by his party towards bringing minorities to the mainstream with steps such as the introduction of a five per cent quota in government jobs for religious minorities.

Meanwhile, other speakers criticised the ministry of religious affairs and said that no concrete steps have been taken by this ministry to promote religious tolerance and coherence.

Bishop of Faisalabad Diocese Father Joseph Arshad said that the fear of attack, persecution, both legal and illegal, discrimination and frequent hate speech have reduced Pakistan’s minorities to second class citizens.

“But this state of affairs harms the whole nation because it thwarts the ability of minority citizens to contribute towards the country’s growth,” Father Arshad said.

The government, he said, has established various human rights bodies but has failed to implement their recommendations.

All Pakistan Hindu Rights Movement Chairman Haroon Dayal said the only thing he ever does is try to prove his loyalty to Pakistan, which should not be questioned in the first place.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Ulema Council Chairman Hafiz Tahir Ashrafi said that the justice system was too weak and those who instigate violence, such as the people who burnt 160 homes in Joseph Colony Lahore, go unpunished.

In Rawalpindi, Christians organised an event at the Rawalpindi Arts Council (RAC) and arranged special prayers for the prosperity of Pakistan.

A cake was cut to celebrate the 69th Independence Day on August 14 and national songs were presented by Hamdo Sana Hozeena Band. Speaking at the occasion, RAC Resident Director Waqar Ahmed said this country is the home of every Pakistani and everyone must contribute towards its development.

Pastor Aamir Sohail said Pakistan was envisioned to be a country where everyone would be free to follow their religion.

“The Christian community has made tremendous contributions in the fields of medicine and education,” he said.

Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2015

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