ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that steps have been taken to facilitate the Sikh community through Kartarpur Corridor, which will be opened for the 550th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak in November.

He was speaking at an event titled ‘One land, one flag and one nation’ held in connection with Minority Day at the Aiwan-i-Sadr on Monday.

The country observed Minority Day in connection with the Quaid-i-Azam’s address to the legislative assembly on Aug 11, 1947 where he had stated that all citizens were free to go to their worship places without distinction of their religions or faiths.

In his speech, the prime minister said that there was no precedent in Islamic history for forcefully converting others, and those who do so knew neither the history of Islam, nor their religion, the Quran or Sunnah.

He said that unjust practice of forced conversions needed to be stopped as it gravely violated Islamic values and the Constitution.

President, PM assure religious minorities of social protection, freedom to practise faith

“Those who force others to adopt a particular religion are totally unaware of the teachings of the Quran and Sunnah,” he said in reference to forced conversion of Hindu girls through marriages as reported in Sindh.

A nation could not live without a vision, he said, stressing that Pakistan needed to follow the vision of Riasat-i-Madina where all religious minorities enjoyed equal rights.

“How can we then take it into our own hands to forcefully convert someone to Islam — either by marrying [non-Muslim] women [...] or on gunpoint or to [by threatening to] kill someone because of their religion?” he asked.

“We will protect the worship places of all religions and will change the mindset of people in line with Islamic injunctions,” he assured the minority communities.

He announced plans to set up chairs at the country’s leading universities for in-depth study of the subject. The premier added that PhD degree research would be conducted on the world’s first welfare State of Madina, which embodied principles of rule of law, justice, peace and equality for all regardless of race, religion and gender.

The prime minister termed accountability an important component of a welfare state and said the politicians convicted in corruption cases could not bring even single documentary proof.

He said in 10 years, the looters of the public exchequer inflicted a financial loss of Rs 24,000 billion on the country and now were calling their accountability as political victimisation.

The event was also attended by President Arif Alvi as well as representatives of different communities, including Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Baha’i and Kalash.

Speaking on the occasion, President Alvi said that the concept of a modern Islamic state was incomplete without principles of social equality and assured the religious minorities in the country of full freedom to practice their faith.

“Pakistan belongs to its all communities regardless of any religion, which united to make a beautiful bouquet of inter-faith harmony,” he said.

President Dr Alvi said the country’s leadership was determined to make Pakistan a true reflection of the ideals of State of Madina, the vision of the Quaid and the philosophy of national poet Allama Iqbal.

“You have a steadfast prime minister, and I tell you, he will not inch backward unless achieve his goal of a welfare state,” the president told the audience comprising bishops, pundits, pastors and other religious leaders.

He said all religious minorities were an important part of Pakistan and lauded their contribution for the country in diverse fields. He quoted a saying of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) that “anyone becoming tyrant towards a non-Muslim, would be contested by me on the Day of Judgement”.

Federal Minister for Religious Affairs and Inter-faith Harmony Pir Noorul Haq Qadri said that for the last one year, the ministry had taken special steps to mark holy events of all faiths, including Christmas, Holi, Dewali, Besakhi, and others.

He said the government of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf made appointment of the chairman of the Evacuee Trust Board on merit after proper advertisement and interview, regretting that earlier the kitty was misappropriated by the political appointees of the previous government.

Representatives of different religious communities shared their views on the occasion and expressed commitment to continuing contributing to the country’s solidarity and prosperity.

Bishop of Lahore Irfan Jamil said the Christian community was playing a significant role in the fields of education, medicine, social work and even in the armed forces. He called for implementation of five per cent reserved job quota for minorities in true letter and spirit, elimination of hate material from syllabus and also legislation related to Christian marriage and divorce.

Representing the Hindu community, Parliamentary Secretary for Human Rights in the National Assembly Lal Chand Malhi expressed satisfaction that presence of both the president and the prime minister at the event for minorities showed their seriousness about making Pakistan a reflection of the Quaid’s vision.

Isphanyar Bhandara speaking on behalf of the Parsi community said protection of minorities was linked with the country’s solidarity and urged the government to rename the major roads in the names of non-Muslim prominent personalities.

Dr Seema Fozdar representing the Baha’i community said Pakistan’s minorities presented a beautiful mix of religions that needed tolerance and harmony for a peaceful society.

Published in Dawn, July 30th, 2019

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