President Asif Ali Zardari has called upon clerics and religious scholars from all schools of thought to help the government check the misuse of the blasphemy law against minorities.
“We are aware of the misuse of blasphemy law against minorities by vested interests,” the president told the concluding session of a national conference on interfaith harmony at the Presidency. The conference was organised by the ministry of national harmony.
“We will not allow the misuse of any law against vulnerable groups, including the minorities. I call upon our religious scholars from all schools of thought to consider ways and means to stop the misuse of blasphemy law,” the president was quoted as saying by his spokesperson Senator Farhatullah Babar.
Zardari also called for unity and harmony among followers of different faiths for addressing the challenges of extremism and terrorism. The president said he had been pleading with the world that the way the issue of terrorism was being addressed would not lead it to success.
Referring to the conflict in Afghanistan, President Zardari said more than three decades of war could not bring peace in Afghanistan and that Pakistan was the worst affected by turmoil in its neighbourhood.
There was time when no one in Pakistan could think of blowing himself up as a bomber as Islam is against suicide, he said. People at that time lived in peace and harmony and there were no sectarian issues but then global politics changed the situation when religion was used as a weapon of war.
The president said there was a need for adopting the approach of peace and reconciliation to eliminate the menace of extremism and terrorism.
President Zardari said the world has not yet fully realised the dangerous consequences of using religion as a weapon of war. Now, the world cannot afford to allow anyone to use religion for their vested interests.
He said it was disturbing to see that the values of tolerance and harmony were fast eroding during present times. Extremists have destroyed peace in the name of religion. Extremism is not confined to any one religion or country. It is s growing the world over and is an alarming trend. “We must act before rationality is completely destroyed,” he warned.
The president said that the values of tolerance and harmony cannot be divided into Islamic or Christian. Efforts for promotion of tolerance and harmony must be across the religious and geographical divides.
“We must guard against making exceptions and selectivity. Exceptions and selectivity will not promote harmony. If anything, it will only further increase it,” he added.
While expressing support for a greater role of the UN in promoting harmony, the president emphasised that we need collective efforts to resolve conflicts and disputes especially where these involve friction between different religions and faiths.
“We must extend developmental support to those societies which are faced with interfaith friction or extremism,” he said. Such support, he added, should be aimed at poverty alleviation and human development.
Advisor to Prime Minister on National Harmony Dr Paul Bhatti, Justice (Retd) Rana Bhagwan Das and Chairman Central Ruet-e-Hilal Committee Mufti Muneebur Rehman also addressed on the occasion.
The conference called for establishing a national council for interfaith harmony consisting of representatives from different faiths. It also recommended formation of local level committees to promote national harmony. It also called for replacing the word “minorities” with some appropriate word like Non-Muslim Pakistanis.
The conference condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and emphasised the need that terrorism should not be attributed to a particular group, nation or religion.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 23rd, 2013.
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