In the month of Muharram, all sections of the country, including the government, ulema, religious and political parties, and law-enforcement agencies endeavour to maintain law and order, contain terrorism and avert any untoward incident by working towards interfaith harmony. Efforts to create interfaith and inter-sect harmony are carried out all year round by some organisations, yet efforts by the government are only visible either ahead of Muharram or when the country witnesses a terror attack.
During the last two years, the Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC) has played a constructive role in uniting the leaderships of different religious schools of thought and sects on the united platform of the National Reconciliatory Council with the sole objective to address controversial issues in an amicable way. The leaderships of all religious sects are fully committed and cooperating with the PUC in its efforts in bringing about religious harmony.
Two years ago, the PUC had constituted a code of conduct with consultation of all noted ulema, clerics, religious scholars and intellectuals. Assistance was also provided by the Milli Yekjehti Council along with suggestions by Maulana Abdul Sattar Niyazi’s committee. This code of conduct was not only implemented last year, but was also referred to by the federal and provincial governments. The prime minister, during a meeting with a delegation of the PUC, appreciated this code of conduct and also demonstrated an interest in incorporating it at the national level. If this were to be done, the code could assist in ending sectarian violence and terrorism in Pakistan. Prior to the onset of Muharram, the PUC had consulted all noted ulema, clerics and religious scholars of the country regarding this code of conduct. Endeavours are also under way to address issues and controversies between different sects and religious schools of thought in an amicable manner. It is hoped that confrontation will not arise between sects during Muharram and that if any such situation occurs, it is addressed and resolved with mutual collaboration and understanding. The following code of conduct will also be presented in the next meeting of the Council of Islamic Ideology for consultation and legislation:
1) There is no space for terrorism, extremism or sectarian violence in the name of Islam and the leaderships of all religious sects must dissociate themselves from all elements linked to sectarian violence, terrorism and extremism.
2) Any scholar, orator or cleric will not, during sermons, make sacrilegious remarks about the Holy Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) or his family, caliphs and Imams, including Imam Mehdi, and no religious sect will support or endorse any blasphemer.
3) An Islamic sect must not be declared ‘infidel’ and any Muslim or non-Muslim cannot be declared ‘worthy of killing’.All Pakistanis should be able to live their lives as per the rights afforded in the Constitution.
4) There should be a complete ban on the use of loudspeakers, except for calling out the Azan and for giving the Friday sermon. People of all religions and religious sects should be able to use loudspeakers for their congregations only with the permission of local administrations.
5) There should be a complete ban on the publication of violent religious content, hate speeches, outrageously controversial literature, books based on hateful content, and CDs and websites carrying seditious content.
6) Joint religious congregations will be held to demonstrate solidarity among all sects.
7) It is the responsibility of the government to ensure the protection of sacred sites and places of worship of the minorities living in Pakistan. Therefore, the government should rein in all elements that pose a threat to the minorities and their places of worship.
8) The government must ensure the implementation of the National Action Plan.
9) Cohesive coordination mechanisms must be maintained between the local administration and the administrators of majalis and religious processions.
10) In case of any untoward incident, members of the National Reconciliatory Council will arrive at the scene immediately and thwart the public from violence.
One hopes these measures, once adopted, would help in fostering harmony in coming years, something our country badly needs.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 20th, 2015.
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