ISLAMABAD: Special representative of the Prime Minister on Religious Harmony and Middle East Hafiz Tahir Ashrafi has said that there is no concept of forced marriage and forced conversion in Islam, and it is the responsibility of the state to protect the rights of religious minorities.
He was speaking at Inter-Faith Conference for Young Women organised by the Inter-Faith Harmony Council and Diocese of Peshawar, Church of Pakistan, here on Thursday.
Hafiz Ashrafi said that the religious minorities should not live in fear in Pakistan as they were protected by the state.
He said that inter-faith harmony councils were being established up to the union council level across the country.
Says inter-faith harmony councils being established up to union council level
The inter-faith harmony council is a concept developed by Hafiz Ashrafi in his capacity as the special aide to the PM.
Women and girls belonging to Parachinar and other parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, rural areas of Sindh and Balochistan and Punjab attended the conference and shared their concerns about religious extremism in the country.
Hafiz Ashrafi said that the conference was a step towards de-radicalisation of society and establishment of inter-faith harmony councils at grassroots level.
“Women and girls play an important role in reformation process,” he said. “Both Muslims and non-Muslims had played a key role in the struggle for creation of Pakistan.”
He said that it was part of their faith that every prophet had spread the message of peace and inter-faith harmony.
Hafiz Ashrafi said that efforts are being made to stop misuse of blasphemy law, and asked the human rights organisations and NGOs to come forward and play a positive role in promotion of inter-faith harmony.
He criticised certain civil society bodies for raising the issues related to faith-based persecution and said: “Before you proceed abroad and highlight such issues there, why not please register a complaint here with the Ministry of Human Rights or any official forum, so that we may take timely action.”
Hafiz Ashrafi said that the constitution of Pakistan provided equal rights to non-Muslims. “The concept of forced marriage and forceful conversion to Islam is against Islamic teachings.”
The PM’s special representative said that terrorists and extremists were neither serving Islam nor were friends of Islam. He said that killing of a non-Muslim or damaging their property had nothing to do with Islam. The killer of a non-Muslim doctor who was recently murdered in Peshawar had been arrested, he added.
He said that more seminary education boards will be established in coordination with the education ministry to improve the madressah education system.
Federal Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari, the bishop of Peshawar and the convener for youth affairs of Inter-Faith Harmony Council also addressed the conference.
Dr Mazari said that the government had adopted rights-based approach to protect the rights given in the Constitution.
She said that women and minorities were the most vulnerable sections of society and their rights must be safeguarded.
“Beauty of Pakistan lies in the diversity as people have various religious and social backgrounds which enrich our society,” she added.
She said Pakistan was among those countries that had provided personal laws to religious minorities. “We have Hindu Marriage Act and we are preparing Christian Marriage and Divorced Bill by consulting the stakeholders. There are some issues which will be resolved,” she added.
Published in Dawn, February 19th, 2021