03/18/2016, 09.21
PAKISTAN

Islamabad: Easter will be a holiday for Christians; Holi and Diwali for Hindus

by Shafique Khokhar

The resolution was presented by a Hindu deputy. Activists working on behalf of minorities appreciate the decision. Others point out some shortcomings: the holidays will be reserved only for religious minorities and not to the entire population. Focus needed on concrete respect for minority rights.

 

Islamabad (AsiaNews) - The Pakistani National Assembly has passed a resolution that grants holiday time for Christians to celebrate Easter and Hindus and their Holi and Diwali celebrations. The resolution is the work of Vankwani Ramesh Kumar, an Assembly member of the Hindu faith.

While some minority rights activists appreciate the initiative, others point out that it is not enough to recognize some holy days of religious traditions. Rather, equal rights and the concrete protection of minority groups should be guaranteed.

Kashif Aslam, activist and coordinator of the National Commission for Justice and Peace, told AsiaNews: "This is a historic decision for the recognition of minorities as citizens of Pakistan. We appreciate the government's effort in this regard, to ensure the equality of rights. " However, the activist adds, "there are still many steps to be taken. For example, the proposal submitted by Shahbaz Bhatti to replace the word Essai with Masihi to denote Christians in government documents or school texts. But the proposal has been sidelined, because of government inability. We hope that in this case the proposal is really put into effect".

Husnain Jamal, a Muslim, highlights another issue: "There are still many gaps. Of particular note is the fact that the government has decided to grant holidays only for religious minorities, while the rest of the Muslim population must go to work. I think that the Muslims should be allowed to celebrate these festivities, so that they can rejoice and celebrate with our brothers and sisters belonging to other religious minorities. Islamabad should declare these days as national holidays for everyone".

Finally Fr. Aftab James Paul believes that the government "should focus on the protection of rights. We already celebrate Christmas and Easter in our churches. Then this year Easter falls on a national holiday in Pakistan. Instead the authorities should ensure the right to education, the freedom to practice one's religion and quotas for minorities in government employment. Finally, they should remove prejudices against minorities from school books".

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