As Christians across the country celebrate the festive occasion of Christmas amid tight security on Tuesday, the president, prime minister and other top government officials extended their felicitations and warmest wishes to members of the community.
A number of Christmas congregations and celebrations are being held to mark the birth of Jesus Christ. The day began with ceremonies and congregations in churches amid beefed up security and prayers for the country's sovereignty and prosperity.
Christian citizens have decorated their homes and churches with colourful fairy lights. Residential colonies have also been decorated with twinkling lights and stars, and baubles such as bells, pine cones, apples, candies, tinsel, balloons and bedecked Christmas trees. Special Christmas trees have been prepared to celebrate the occasion.
Three tiers of security cover will be maintained for all churches, and law enforcers will be on a ‘high alert’ during Christmas, new year celebrations and the Quaid-i-Azam Day in the garrison city and capital, where 4,000 policemen will be deployed.
Christmas greetings as holiday observed on official level
A number of top government officials issued Christmas greetings as the prime minister announced observing Christmas at an official level this year, according to MNA Shunila Ruth.
President Arif Alvi in a message extended his warmest greetings to Christians in Pakistan on the joyous occasion and commended the sincere efforts of the Christian community towards socioeconomic development of the country.
Prime Minister Imran Khan wished a happy and peaceful Christmas to all Christian citizens in the country.
The prime minister also ordered that all scheduled gas load management be lifted across the country on Christmas eve to enable the Christian community to celebrate their religious festival in comfort, Radio Pakistan reported.
Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa, according to the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), joined members of the Christian community at Christ Church in Rawalpindi to take part in Christmas celebrations. COAS Bajwa, while wishing Merry Christmas to the entire Christian community in Pakistan, acknowledged the role of Christian brethren not only towards the creation of Pakistan but also for their contributions towards its progress.
Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry in a statement felicitating the Christian community on Christmas said that the protection of the rights of minorities is among the top priorities of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government, according to a Radio Pakistan report.
He added that the Constitution guarantees the protection of minorities, and appreciated the role that members of the Christian community have played in the solidarity, development and prosperity of Pakistan, as well as their services in health, education and other sectors.
Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari wished everyone celebrating a truly joyous and safe Christmas. "May all your hopes and dreams come true," she added.
Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar also congratulated the Christian community on the occasion of Christmas. He said that promotion of brotherhood, tolerance, harmony, love and affection is the essence of the teachings of Jesus.
Punjab Minister for Human Rights and Minorities Affairs Aijaz Alam Augustine in his Christmas message said that the chief minister had announced a grant of Rs30 million on the occasion of Christmas and Rs25m for the scholarship of minority students across the province.
Punjab Information and Culture Minister Fayyazul Hassan Chohan said the birth anniversary of Jesus Christ was being celebrated at national level to express solidarity with minorities.
"Every citizen has equal rights as enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan irrespective of colour, creed and ethnicity. The Punjab government is promoting a true image of the country in which all citizens will have equal rights," he said.
Chaudhry, Buzdar and Augustine each described the birth of Christ as a sacred and holy occasion for both Christians and Muslims.