There is an urgent need for people to speak up against the rising levels of violence and intolerance related to ethnic and religious differences.
These were the views expressed by speakers at a seminar on “Tolerance in Pakistan”, held at Quaid-e-Azam University’s (QAU) library hall on Tuesday.
The event, organised by Insani Huqooq Ittehad (IHI) in collaboration with the QAU’s Centre of Excellence in Gender Studies, aimed to carry forward the ‘Just and Tolerant Pakistan’ campaign initiated on March 23.
Rights activist and senior member of IHI network Nasreen Azhar, said the campaign’s objective was to raise 100,000 voices of responsible citizens who would preach a more tolerant environment for the country’s future generations.
The campaign calls for people to stand up for justice, peace and respect and make their voices heard, she added.
Azhar said hundreds of innocents had been killed in the name of religion, while their families did not receive due justice.
“There is a dire need to rid the country of sectarianism so that our future generations can operate in a safer world,” she said, before shedding light on the country’s history of cultural and interfaith harmony.
Senior member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) and eminent activist I.A. Rahman called for a structural approach to countering rising intolerance in the country.
Rahman said it was painful to see bloodshed in the name of a religion shared by almost all citizens of the country.
Peace and Development Foundation Executive Director Romana Bashir, representing the Christian community, expressed grave concerns over a recent constitutional amendment prohibiting non-Muslims from running for prime minister.
“If the government cannot take steps to do away with the discrimination against minorities then it should at least not deprive them of the right to be appointed to key positions,” she said.
She demanded the government to ensure the active participation of non-Muslim women during the forthcoming polls.
“The hardships non-Muslim women are facing need to be heard; they should be given the same rights other Muslim women in the country are enjoying,” she said.
During the event, a special tribute was paid to those who have lost their lives to intolerance through a presentation that brought tears to the eyes of the participants.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 17th, 2013.