ISLAMABAD: Pakistanis should promote harmony among different faiths and learn to tolerate religious minorities. This was said by All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA) Chairperson Dr Paul Bhatti.
“There is an ideology in Pakistan that does not follow any religion or faith. It only wants to spread terror and hate,” the former minister for Interfaith Harmony said. “We need to confront this mindset by relying on values of humanity common to all religions.”
Bhatti was addressing a press conference at the National Press Club on Sunday to celebrate the 11th anniversary of the APMA — a nationwide organisation that claims to represent all religious minorities in Pakistan.
APMA leaders demanded that the government remove all clauses from the constitution which are discriminatory towards religious minorities. The misuse of Sections 295 (b) and (c) pertaining to blasphemy should be stopped with the help of appropriate amendments, they said.
Responding to a question, Bhatti told The Express Tribune that the PML-N government had not shown any inclination to repeal or amend the blasphemy laws so far.
“But we are going to formally demand changes from the APMA platform,” he said.
He cited Salmaan Taseer’s assassination and the Joseph Colony incident as examples of the extremist mindset that incited people to take the law into their own hands.
The APMA leaders also demanded electoral reforms to allow greater minority participation, a separate quota in the assemblies for women from minority communities, and more reserved seats for religious minorities in the National Assembly.
Bhatti said the National Harmony ministry’s dissolution was disappointing, but added that the APMA was developing a centre for peace that would take on similar responsibilities to the ministry, albeit on a private level.
Bhatti took up the APMA’s reigns after his brother Shahbaz’s assassination in 2011. Shahbaz, a former federal minister, formed the alliance on July 14, 2002 in a bid to unite and protect the rights of different religious minorities.
Bhatti said the APMA was formed to raise a voice against injustice, terrorism and sectarian violence. He said the organisation wanted to make Pakistan strong and prosperous in line with Jinnah’s ideals. “Unfortunately, Pakistan’s religious minorities are marginalised and treated like second-class citizens,” said Bhatti.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 15th, 2013.