ISLAMABAD: There is a need for a new social contract which will ensure the protection of every Pakistani’s rights without discrimination of religion, sect and ethnicity, said historian and scholar, Ahmed Salim at a Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) seminar on ‘Turning Diversity into Pluralism’ on Monday.

He said Pakistan is a diverse country with many cultures, traditions and religions and that differences were created between the people of the country many years ago by some elements for their interests.

“The time has now come to have a new social contract which will treat all citizens equally and their rights will be protected without discrimination,” Mr Salim said.

Aurat Foundation head Naeem Ahmed Mirza said cultural, religious, societal and gender based gaps are the main reasons why the people of Pakistan could not get the benefits of pluralism.

Certain minorities were ignored during census and counted as Sikh or Baha’i, seminar on diversity is told

He said the history of the area is pluralist as people of different cultures and religions have been living together here for centuries. However, differences were highlighted by some elements who wanted to divide and rule them.

Peace and Development Foundation Executive Director Romana Bashir said the recent census provided a huge opportunity for identifying different segments of society but certain minorities were ignored in the census.

“The identities of a number of minorities were also not mentioned and they were counted as Sikh or Baha’i. Such steps close the door to progress for minority and the whole country ultimately suffers. Discrimination against minorities should be stopped at the earliest,” she said.

Researcher and educationist Dr Amineh Ahmed Hoti highlighted the importance of education for peaceful co-existence and acceptance.

“We have models of education based on inclusive ideas and teachings and a highly talented young generation but unfortunately, we have not been able to mainstream the ideals of modern and progressive education,” she said.

She said teacher training around modern notions of education will also play a key role in turning Pakistan into a pluralistic society.

SDPI representative Shafqat Aziz suggested that a national debate should be held on no discrimination among different segments of society.

Published in Dawn, January 2nd, 2018