ISLAMABAD: Activists belonging to religious minorities here on Thursday, demanded an end to forced conversion of girls to Islam, and stressed that those in authority have to follow the guidelines of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah to make the condition of non-Muslims living in Pakistan better.

Chairman of the Minorities Alliance Pakistan Akmal Bhatti while addressing participants of the ‘Jinnah Ka Pakistan Awami Rally, said that incidents of kidnapping, rape and coercion of minor girls have been rapidly increasing in the country.

He said political, social and economic exploitation of religious minorities is contrary to Mr Jinnah’s teachings, adding that the reckless use of sensitive religious laws and extrajudicial killings continues but the state seems to be helpless against such elements.

Speakers demanded electoral reforms as they claim that the present system has introduced a culture of nepotism, bribery and flattery and closed the door to genuine representation of minorities.

Say govt must work towards making Pakistan inclusive for minorities

Under present laws, political parties have been appointing handpicked minority representatives in the assemblies, which is against democracy.

Shamoon Gul, Sardar Ram Singh, Anush Bhatti, Asif Jan, Sadaf Adnan, Khalid Raheel, Samuel Latif, Fayaz Bhatti and others addressed the rally. They said governments have failed to take concrete steps to bring out backward and extremely poor sections of society from economic and educational misery.

Meanwhile, the National Assembly, while commemorating the Diamond Jubilee of Pakistan, acknowledged achievements by members of religious minorities in Pakistan who played a key role in the progress and prosperity of the country.

In a statement by the NA Secretariat, Article 33 of the Constitution discourages discrimination and parochial, racial, tribal, sectarian and provincial prejudices among citizens.

It adds that the declaration made by Mr Jinnah in his address on Aug 11, 1947 to the first Constituent Assembly was: “You are free. You are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this state of Pakistan.”

In another development Hafiz Mohammad Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi, chairman of Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC) said that the rights of religious minorities were being protected at every respective level and committees of PUC and National Solidarity Council were jointly working in this regard in the country.

Speaking at a seminar held under the aegis of Centre for Research and Dialogue, Mr Ashrafi said that the Ulemas-Mashaykh played a very important in maintaining peace and order during the month of Muharram.

He said that rights enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan for minorities cannot be usurped, adding that Paigham-i-Pakistan has become the identity for stability of Pakistan.

He said no one in the country will be allowed to play with the rights of minorities adding minorities in India were facing the worst situation and not a single Muharram congregation or majlis was allowed in India-held Kashmir during Ashura.

Not only this but around 150 churches were burnt to ashes while more than 200 Christian leaders were killed in India, but lower caste Hindus have to face the worst atrocities, whereas Muslims have almost been deprived of their rights as citizens in India.

Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2022

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