Speakers at a seminar demanded equal rights and respect for religious minorities in the country.
Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU)’s Department of Defence and Strategic Studies and the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) jointly organised an interactive session titled “Peace and Conflict in Pakistan: Religious Intolerance and Role of Youth” on Friday.
Progressive writer and intellectual Ahmed Saleem said that though religious minorities constitute a small portion of Pakistani society, there are six religions in practice in the country. “This diversity should be considered a blessing,” he said.
Saleem, who is a senior research adviser at SDPI, said the practical situation in the country was much different from the general perception that minorities are just five per cent of the population with their rights guaranteed in the Constitution. “Hindus in Sindh have been living there for thousands of years while Sikhs were here with the advent of Sikhism during the Mughal period,” he said.
He said the division of India was made on demographic lines. On June 23, 1947, the Punjab Legislative Council session in Lahore decided which areas would go to Pakistan. Three Christian assembly members voted in favour of Pakistan. “DP Singha was the deputy speaker and polled his vote in favour of Pakistan when there were equal votes on whether Lahore and its adjoining areas should go to India or Pakistan.” He said this fact should be included in our school textbooks.
Narrating the services and contribution of religious minorities towards society, Saleem said major hospitals in Sindh and Punjab were established by non-Muslims.
He also mentioned contributions of non-Muslims in the social sector, literature, sports, politics, defence and judiciary, and mentioned Justice Cornelius, Justice Durab Patel and Justice Bhagwandas, Cecil Chaudhry, Col Herbert, Kambra Jee and Dadi Leena, Jimmy Engineer, Saleem Raza, A Nayyar, Neelo and Shabnam.
“Hindus and Christians are part of Pakistan and should be given due respect and importance,” he stated further.
QAU Social Sciences Dean Dr Aliya H Khan and SDPI researcher Mome Saleem also spoke and answered questions from students.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 2nd, 2014.
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