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Religious leaders urge Pakistan to promote tolerance

NEW DELHI, September 18, 2012 Religious leaders, human rights activists, lawyers and inter-faith academics have blamed hardliners and anti-social elem

NEW DELHI, September 18, 2012The Hindu

Religious leaders, human rights activists, lawyers and inter-faith academics have blamed hardliners and anti-social elements in Pakistan for the plight of minorities there and urged Islamabad to do more for such affected religious groups and allow liberal thoughts to flourish in the interest of its own stability.

“Pakistan has not yet found a modus vivendi to come to terms with its pluralism. We will have to seek answers in the idea of Pakistan itself for the miserable condition of the minorities there,” said former Delhi Lieutenant-Governor Vijai Kapoor at a symposium on “Plight of Minorities” organised by the Global Foundation for Civilisational Harmony (India) at the Indian Law Institute here over the weekend.

Citing several instances of institutionalised discrimination against the minorities in Pakistan, Mr. Kapoor insisted that it was the responsibility of the majority community in any country to safeguard the interests of the minorities.

In the Indian Constitution there are specific provisions including Articles 29 and 30 aimed at protecting the minorities, he said, adding that it was in Pakistan’s own interest to become a modern society in which liberal thoughts would flourish.


Syed Babar Ashraf, secretary of All-India Ulema and Mashaikh Board, said Islam does not teach hate. “A Muslim is a person in whose hand the entire humanity is safe,” he said, holding a particular brand of Islam responsible for distorting religion. “Sufi Sunnis, who believed in dargahs, were also high on the targets of these extremists, who just wanted to gain political supremacy the world over,’’ he said.

Mr. Ashraf said the Sufi tradition had a great influence in the spread of Islam in the Indian subcontinent but its message of harmony was sought to be distorted by some particular sections.

Advocate Vivek Goyal outlined the Constitutional and legal provisions aimed at protecting the interests of minorities and anti-blasphemy laws that were applicable to all communities in Pakistan but said these provisions were being misused to victimise the minorities and grab their property.

He also noted that the population of Hindus in Pakistan had gone down sizeably over the past six decades.

Human rights activist Joseph Gathia said false complaints were being made under blasphemy law in Pakistan by people who were eyeing the property of minorities.

“Minorities are living in fear. They cannot speak. There is systemic discrimination. Infant mortality rate among minorities is high as pregnant women find it difficult to get admission in hospitals. It is not easy for children to get admission in schools and they are deliberately given low grades,” he said. Mr. Gathia said now there was also a growing feeling among a section of Pakistan’s population that blasphemy laws were wrong.

The seminar was also addressed by GFCH India director K.G. Suresh who claimed that the root cause of the problems faced by minorities in Pakistan, Bangladesh and other countries lay in the inability of the State and the majority population to accept diversity of faiths.