Monday, August 22, 2011

Pakistan's government renews commitment to protecting religious minorities

Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani admits that intolerance and extremism are a threat to Pakistani society

By Aftab Alexander Mughal
Special to ASSIST News Service

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (ANS) -- Just, three days before this year's independence day of Pakistan, the government of Pakistan showed her commitment to equal rights to the religious minorities of Pakistan, including Christians, Hindus, Ahmadis and Sikh often suffer discrimination and victimization because of their religions in Pakistan's Islamic society.

On August 11, 2011, Pakistan officially celebrated "Minorities Day" to show her commitment to the minorities' rights.

President Asif Ali Zardari said that the Government of Pakistan stands committed to ensuring equal rights for all the minorities as enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan and the UN declaration of Human Rights.
In a message on the occasion, the President said Minorities Day is an opportunity that reminds us to reaffirm our solidarity and to work hard for the betterment of humanity and for a prosperous Pakistan, according to Pakistan Observer.

He said, "Minorities Day, every year on August 11 is an occasion to recognize the important role played by the minorities of Pakistan in national building. The sacrifices rendered by them. The problems and issues faced by members of minorities as well as to renew our commitment to protect their rights and to draw them fully in the mainstream of national life."

The day has a special significance in the history of Pakistan; especially, it is very noteworthy for religious minorities. On Aug. 11, 1947 (just three days before the independence of Islamic Republic of Pakistan), founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, said in his historic speech to the members of the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan,

"We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State. He further said, "If you change your past and work together in a spirit that every one of you, no matter to what community he belongs, no matter what relations he had with you in the past, no matter what is his color, caste or creed, is first, second and last a citizen of this State with equal rights, privileges, and obligations, there will be no end to the progress you will make."

During a special function organized at Prime Minister House Islamabad to celebrate the day, Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani said the present democratic government stands committed to ensuring equal rights for all minority communities. The Prime Minister said "It is our moral, religious and social obligation to strengthen the bond of love and promote culture of tolerance in the country." Growing intolerance and extremism is a serious threat to the fabric of our society, he added.

Minorities Day got an official recognition in 2009 by the efforts of Pakistan's Minister for Minorities Affairs, Shahbaz Clement Bhatti, who was killed by members of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in Islamabad on March 2, 2011. Minister Bhatti, a Christian, had received numerous death threats from religious extremists before, according to Minorities Concern of Pakistan.

Aftab Alexander Mughal is editor of Minorities Concern of Pakistan. E-mail:

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