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HYDERABAD, Feb 20: Leaders of nationalist and left-wing parties and prominent poets and writers have called for concrete efforts to curb fundamentalism and demanded separation of religion from state and equal rights for minorities.

Speaking at a seminar on ‘Religious extremism and black laws of Zia’s regime’ organised by the “Left Unity” at the press club here on Sunday, they stressed the need for a united front comprising all secular, nationalist and progressive forces for combating fundamentalism and promoting secularism.

Renowned intellectual Mohammad Ibrahim Joyo said that after independence the Quaid-i-Azam had unequivocally declared that religion would be the personal concern of the individual and every citizen of Pakistan would have equal rights. But successive governments in the country violated this principle.

Mr Joyo called upon the working class and oppressed people to unite to protect their rights.

He said Sindhis, Balochs and Pakhtuns were oppressed nations. He said that not only “black laws of the Zia regime” but all discriminatory laws should be repealed.

Left Unity secretary Buxal Thallo said that religious extremism was a threat for the country’s progress and called upon all political parties to launch a joint struggle against fundamentalism.

Awami Jamhoori Party leader Abrar Kazi said all political parties should actively oppose religious extremism, adding that Sindh being the land of Sufis should lead the struggle against fundamentalism. He said religious extremism was a product of the state.

Syed Alam Shah of Awami Tahreek said that fundamentalism had been promoted and strengthened during the tenure of Gen Zia.

Awami Party leader Taj Mari said religious extremism was being strengthened in Sindh and called upon all progressive parties to forget their petty differences and launch a joint struggle against fundamentalism.

Labour Party leader Younus Rahu said the PPP, ANP and security agencies were being attacked by fundamentalists.

Amar Sindhu of Women Action Forum said fundamentalists were gaining strength in the country.

JSM leader Dr Arbab Khuhawar, Comrade Harish, JSQM leader Mir Alam Mari, Moulana Azizullah Bohio and Iqbal Mallah also spoke at the seminar.