KARACHI: Calling forced conversion a crime, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has said his government will not let any extremist decide about ‘heaven or hell’ just for their own vested interests.
“To force someone to abandon his faith is a crime and such spirit is manifested in the Constitution, which was framed after complete consensus of all the political parties and religious leaders.
Pakistan was created to fight religious persecution: Nawaz Sharif
“Pakistan is a country for people of diverse backgrounds and our government will not let any extremist decide about heaven or hell just for their own vested interest,” Nawaz said on Tuesday.
He was addressing a ceremony held to mark the Hindu festival of Holi in Karachi.
The ceremony organised by the Sindh Hindu Panchayat Committee and the PML-N minority wing was also attended by Sindh Governor Muhammad Zubair, federal ministers Saad Rafique, Ahsan Iqbal and Kamran Michael, federal and provincial lawmakers and members of Hindu community.
However, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah was conspicuous by his absence. The prime minister — who is on a two-day visit to Sindh’s provincial capital — also announced a grant of Rs500 million for the welfare of Hindu community in Sindh.
This is Nawaz’s second visit to Sindh within a week. The PM on March 9 also addressed a public gathering in Thatta and announced a development package for the impoverished area.
Criticising ‘some extremist elements who forcibly covert people’s religion, Nawaz said Pakistan was not created for religious persecution, but ‘we all have to jointly share our happiness and sorrow’.
“Islam treats all communities as equal and guarantees their rights by even enforcement of law,” he said. “Our government stands for complete religious freedom of all communities without discrimination and ensures their equal rights as enshrined in the Constitution.”
Nawaz said Pakistan was created on the basis of equal rights of all communities with complete religious freedom. “Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Allama Iqbal had called for complete religious freedom for followers of different faiths,” he added.
He said the government will ensure complete freedom for all the religious minorities and if required further legislation will be enacted with stringent enforcement of laws for their rights and protection.
The PM directed the authorities to provide full-fledged security to religious places.
Extending Holi greetings to the Hindu community, the PM said his government was committed to ensuring equal opportunities for all the communities.
Meeting with party leaders
Later, Nawaz also held a separate meeting with the PML-N’s provincial leaders at Sindh Governor House. The meeting took place in the backdrop of reported resentment in the PML-N Sindh chapter many of whose leaders have parted ways and joined the PPP, which is the ruling party in the province.
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According to sources, during the meeting leaders asked Nawaz to focus on Sindh’s politics and give tough time to the PPP. Sources privy to the meeting told The Express Tribune that the meeting decided to field party candidates in all districts of Sindh.
“You should do groundwork by organising public gatherings and meetings. I will personally come to address the people,” Nawaz assured the local leaders.
“You should convey my message to people of Sindh that I will soon be there. We have won Lahore and it’s now time to win Lyari,” he said in an allusion to the PPP’s stronghold in Karachi.
Nawaz accepted the party leaders’ proposal to set up the National Database Registration Authority (Nadra) office and a hospital in Lyari and to release funds for his party union council chairmen in Karachi.
According to a PML-N leader, the meeting decided to form a committee under the supervision of Senator Nehal Hashmi to submit proposals for packages to be announced for various districts and cities in Sindh. “The party has also decided to convene upcoming events in Mirpurkhas, Jacobabad and Sukkur where prime minister will address the gathering,” he added.
Meeting with businessmen
Addressing the prominent members of Karachi’s business community, the PM said economic progress of Pakistan had been acknowledged globally by international financial rating agencies, adding that Pakistan was now termed an attractive destination for business and investment.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 15th, 2017.
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