Islamabad: President has said that 11th of every August is a day to reaffirm our commitment to work for promoting interfaith harmony in the country and to strive for progressive and tolerant Pakistan as envisioned by Father of the Nation.
Addressing the Minorities Day function held at Aiwan-e-Sadr today, the President reiterated the Government’s commitment to protect minorities and to ensure that their constitutional rights are safeguarded at all cost and they are fully drawn in the mainstream of national life. He said that the Day was an occasion to recognize the important role played by the minorities of Pakistan in nation building and to honour the sacrifices rendered by them.
The President said that it was also a day to ponder over the problems faced by the minorities and to work together to address them.
According to the prepared text of President’s speech, he said that Islam lays special emphasis on equal and just treatment of the disadvantaged and the minorities. The Constitution of Pakistan and the UN Declaration of Human Rights protect the rights of the minorities, he said.
He said that the Government was committed to ensure equal rights for all the minorities. Recognition of and respect for the minorities rights was part of the PPP manifesto, he continued.
The President said that the very foundations of our country as a modern, tolerant and progressive state were laid by none other than the Quaid himself during his 11th August speech in the Constituent Assembly. The President quoting the speech of Quaid-i-Azam said that the speech of Quaid marks the state policy towards minorities rooted in the freedom to everyone to profess his religious beliefs freely and without fear or interference.
The President expressed the hope that after passage of 18th Amendment, the Provincial Governments would continue to ensure equality, freedom and security for all communities so that they can freely profess and practice their religions and also safeguard their legitimate and rightful interests.
On this occasion, the President also recounted a number of initiatives taken by the present Government for the welfare of the minorities and for bringing them into the mainstream of national life. Reservation of 5% quota in government jobs/services, reservation of 4 seats for them in Senate, declaration of 11th August, as Minority Day, optional holiday and celebrating religious festivals of minorities at official level, a hundred percent increase in the Minority Development Fund and establishment of prayer rooms in all prisons of Pakistan were among various steps taken for the welfare of minorities, he said.
The President, stressing upon the need to promote interfaith harmony, said that there was an urgent need in the world today, more than ever, for removing distrust and misunderstandings among the followers of different religions. We all must work together to prove wrong those who predict clash of civilization, he said. He said that the Ministry of National Harmony has been mandated to actively engage in dialogue with scholars and leaders of all faiths to remove misunderstandings which are the root cause of extremism.
The President while expressing determination not to permit misuse of any law against vulnerable groups including the minorities said that he was aware of the issue of misuse of some laws against minorities by vested interests. He called upon saner elements of society to get together in the fight against extremist mindset who misuse laws. On this day, the President said, we reaffirm that despite belonging to different faiths we are one nation and together we march for a prosperous Pakistan.
The President, during his speech, also paid glowing tributes to late Shahbaz Bhatti, former Federal Minister for Minorities affairs, who was assassinated in March 2011. He said that late Shahbaz Bhatti was an active member of the PPP who struggled for years under the dynamic leadership of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto for restoration of democracy in Pakistan.
The President also inaugurated Shahbaz Bhatti Memorial Trust that has been established by the bereaved family of Mr. Bhatti with the objective of establishing such programmes which will help in the economic empowerment, social uplift and mainstreaming of minorities.
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