CHAKWAL: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif assured the minorities on Wednesday that the government would keep working for their betterment as it believed they had the same rights as members of the majority community.
Mr Sharif, addressing a ceremony at Katas Raj temple complex, said his government was working on a number of projects to improve the lot of non-Muslims.
“This gathering sends out a message to the world that non-Muslims are equal citizens of this country and they are playing a vital role in its progress,” he maintained.
The Katas Raj temple complex is regarded by Hindus as one of the holiest sites in South Asia. It is situated in Katas village, near Choa Saidanshah in Punjab’s Chakwal district, 120 kilometres to the south of Islamabad.
Lashes out at clerics who foment intolerance
The prime minister expressed a hope that thanks to the steps taken by his government for the welfare of minorities, the day was not far off when Pakistan would be regarded as a “friendly country for minorities”.
Lashing out at the clerics who foment intolerance, Mr Sharif regretted that such elements distorted the teachings of Islam. “Our religion and our Prophet (pbuh) teach us to serve and protect minorities. To serve and protect non-Muslims is a part of our faith,” he told the audience. “I always feel pleasure to attend the ceremonies of non-Muslims. Our sorrows and pains are common.”
Turning his guns towards his detractors and political rivals, Mr Sharif claimed that he had set the country on the right path while his opponents were making “hollow promises”.
“In 2013 the country was facing power outages of 16 hours, but now we have almost ended the curse of loadshedding. By 2018 we shall get rid of loadshedding, ” Mr Sharif said.
He recalled that his government had started construction of motorways during the 1990s, but work came to a standstill after the 1999 coup. “From 1999 to 2013 nobody bothered to build a single motorway in the country. But now within three years we have launched a number of road projects. We are building a motorway even in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” he said.
Taking a dig at Imran Khan, the Tehreek-i-Insaf chief, Mr Sharif said those raising slogans of a new Pakistan were doing nothing for the people. On the other hand, he claimed, the PML-N government tried to tackle all major problems confronting the nation, citing Karachi and the economy as an example.
“We have revived the hustle and bustle of Karachi. Before we came to power, terrorists were wreaking havoc, but now we have overcome the menace to a large extent,” he said.
Mr Sharif said incentives offered by the government over the past three years had brought about an economic revival. “The growth rate was 4.7 per cent last year, but this year it has risen to 5.5pc. Over the next two years it will rise to seven per cent.”
The prime minister said he was determined to usher in a “real change” so that no segment of society felt left out. “Our mission is progress and prosperity and no one can detract us from our goal.”
Making a reference to Cadet College Choha Saidan Shah, he said he was pleased to learn that students from Balochistan, Fata and Sindh were studying at the institution. “We need more educational institutions of this kind in the country.”
He disclosed that proposals to build Guru Nanak University and Gandhara International University in Taxila were under consideration.
Mr Sharif asked Siddique-ul-Farooq, the Evacuee Trust Property Board’s (ETPB) chairman, to start work on restoration of the crumbled temples at Katas Raj complex and ensure that the project was completed before the present government’s five-year term ran out.
Later the prime minister inaugurated a water filtration plant at Katas Raj and visited different sites at the temple complex.
Siddique-ul-Farooq informed the gathering that a zoo, a residential block and a market would be constructed at Katas Raj. “The ETPB is trying its best to provide facilities to Indian pilgrims in Pakistan. Due to our efforts the number of pilgrims is also rising,” Mr Farooq said.
He asked Nawaz Sharif to give more powers to the board.
Published in Dawn, January 12th, 2017