Islamabad; August 9, 2012: President Asif Ali Zardari Thursday reiterated commitment of the present government to protect the rights of the minorities in Pakistan and to draw them fully in the mainstream of national life.
The President said that 11 August, the National Minority day, has a special significance in our national calendar as it was on this very day in 1947 when the Father of the Nation Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, made a historic speech in the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan wherein he clearly laid down the foundations of a modern, tolerant and progressive Pakistan, where every one would have equal rights regardless of creed, caste and gender.
The President said this while addressing at a special event held here at the Aiwan-e-Sadr in connection with the Minorities Day which is being celebrated on August 11 all over the country.
He said that the government was committed to ensure equal rights for all the minorities, adding that recognition of and respect for the minorities rights was part of the PPP manifesto.
The President paid glorious tribute to Shahbaz Bhatti and other countless courageous advocates of interfaith harmony who laid down their lives fighting for the cause of promoting religious tolerance and interfaith harmony
Counting government’s measures for the welfare of minorities, the President said that reservation of 5% quota in government jobs, reservation of 4 seats for Minorities in the Senate, hundred percent increase in the Minority Development Fund, Declaration of 11th August, as Minority Day and establishment of prayer rooms in all prisons of Pakistan were some of the initiatives taken by the present government to bring minorities into the mainstream of national life.
He expressed confidence, that after the passage of Eighteenth Amendment, the provinces will ensure that all communities can freely profess and practice their religions and also safeguard their legitimate and rightful interests.
The President on the occasion called upon scholars and leaders of all faiths to play their active role and enter into dialogue to remove the distrust and misunderstandings among the followers of different religions.
Those who were present at the occasion included among otheres, Chairman PPP Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Ms Aseefa Bhutto Zardari, Ms. Bakhtawar Bhutto Zardari, Mr. Paul Bhatti,advisor to Prime Minister on National harmony, Mr. Akram Maseeh Gill, MOS for National harmony, ministers. Parlaikentarians, memeebrs of diplomatic community, bishops and members of minority’s community.
Following is the text of speech, the President delivered at celebrations of National Minority Day:-
August 11, 2012
Honorable Members of Parliament
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased to welcome the representatives of all faiths to the Presidency.
I am happy to see so many distinguished people from all faiths and beliefs joining hands in a spirit of harmony and mutual respect.
Minorities Day, every year on August 11, is an occasion to recognize the important role played by the minorities of Pakistan in nation building.
It is a day to honor the sacrifices rendered by them.
It is also a day to ponder over the problems faced by them and work together to address them.
It is also a day to renew our commitment to protect their rights and to draw them fully in the mainstream of national life.
Islam lays special emphasis on equal and just treatment of the disadvantaged and the minorities.
The Constitution of Pakistan and the UN Declaration of Human Rights protect the rights of the minorities.
The Government is committed to ensure equal rights for all the minorities.
Recognition of and respect for the minorities rights is part of the PPP manifesto.
August 11 also has a special significance in our national calendar.
It was on this day in 1947 when the Father of the Nation Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, made a historic speech in the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan.
In his address the Quaid laid down the foundations of a modern, tolerant and progressive Pakistan.
A Pakistan in which every one would have equal rights regardless of creed, caste and gender.
I would like to quote from that historical address of the Quaid.
“You are free, you are free to go to your mosques or other places of worship in this state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the state. We are starting with this fundamental principle that we are all citizen and equal citizens of the State”.
That speech of the Quaid marks the state policy towards minorities.
That policy is rooted in the freedom to every one to profess his religious beliefs freely and without fear or interference.
On this day we reaffirm our commitment to work for promoting interfaith harmony as well as for the progress and glory of Pakistan.
I am confident that after passage of Eighteenth Amendment the provincial governments will continue towards equality, freedom and security for all communities.
I am confident that the provinces will ensure that all communities can freely profess and practice their religions and also safeguard their legitimate and rightful interests.
Ladies and Gentlemen!
The Government has taken a number of initiatives for the welfare of minorities and for bringing minorities into the mainstream of national life.
Some of these measures are:
– Reservation of 5% quota in government jobs/services.
– Reservation of 4 seats for Minorities in the Senate.
– Declaration of 11th August, as Minority Day,
– Optional holiday and celebrating religious festivals of minorities at official level.
– A hundred percent increase in the Minority Development Fund.
– Establishment of prayer rooms in all prisons of Pakistan.
Ladies and Gentlemen!
There is an urgent need in the world today more than ever for removing distrust and misunderstandings among the followers of different religions.
We all must work together to prove wrong those who predict clash of civilization.
Ministry of National Harmony has been mandated to actively engage in dialogue with scholars and leaders of all faiths.
Such a dialogue is necessary to remove misunderstandings which are the root cause of extremism.
I am aware of the issue of misuse of blasphemy law against minorities by vested interests.
We will not permit the misuse of any law against vulnerable groups including the minorities.
I take this opportunity to call upon our religious scholars from all schools of thought to get together and consider ways and means of how to stop the misuse of blasphemy law.
On this day we reaffirm that despite belonging to different faiths we are one nation and together we march for a prosperous Pakistan.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
On this day, let us also remember and pay homage to those courageous advocates of interfaith harmony.
Shahbaz Bhatti was one of them. He laid down his life fighting the cause of interfaith harmony.
Like Shahbaz Bhatti there are countless others who laid down their lives fighting for the cause of promoting religious tolerance and interfaith harmony.
They are our national heroes.
Let us demonstrate that their blood was not shed in vain.
Let us on this day also pledge to promote democratic values and culture in the country.
Democratic culture is a critical tool of promoting tolerance, peace and harmony.
It is an effective weapon to end violence and extremism as well as the alleviating the sufferings of our non-Muslim brethren.
Source: Pakistan Peoples Party