05/03/2016, 15.58
PAKISTAN
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Pakistan honours Christian politician in new postage stamp

by Shafique Khokhar

Dewan Bahadur S P Singha is on new 10-rupee stamp. He opted for Pakistan in a critical vote in the Punjab legislature at the time of partition. Christians and Muslims welcome the recognition, a sign that Pakistan is trying to promote interfaith harmony.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) – Pakistan Post issued a commemorative postage stamp honouring Dewan Bahadur S P Singha, a Christian leader who, as a Member of the Punjab Assembly, supported the partition of British India and the creation of Pakistan in 1947.

Christian and Muslim leaders welcomed the initiative, calling it an important step towards recognising the role played by minorities in nation building.

A mock-up of the postage stamp was unveiled last Saturday at the Aiwan-e-Sadr, the official residence of the President of Pakistan.

Speaking at the ceremony, Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain said that dynamic nations always remember those who serve their country. He said Dewan Bahadur had rendered unforgettable services for the establishment of Pakistan for which the nation was thankful to him.

The 10-rupee stamp (US$ 0.10) is the fourth of its kind, and was created to mark the anniversary of independence. The first was released in 1948 with the approval of the founder of the country, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, also known as Quaid-e-Azam, or great leader.

“It is very important to acknowledge the contribution made by minorities in the creation of Pakistan,” Suneel Malik, director of the Foundation Peace and Human Development, told AsiaNews.

“We need to raise awareness about historical facts, because there is a wrong perception among the masses that only Muslims made sacrifices during partition, and that Pakistan came into being in the name of the Islam, which means protecting the interests of Muslims and glorifying only one religion rather than respecting all religions practiced by its citizens.”

Shazia George, a Christian feminist and member of the Punjab Commission on the Status of Women, praised the decision to recognise a Christian national hero. Issuing a postage stamp is “an olive branch at a time when intolerance and extremism are rife in Pakistan, and the Armed Forces are cracking down on elements sowing hatred, prejudice, and terror.”

Even for Zakir Shaheen, a secular Muslim human rights activist and regional manager at the South Asia Partnership Pakistan (SAP-PK), this “is great news. At this point in time, I really appreciate the step taken by the government. We must acknowledge the efforts and sacrifices made by minorities in the foundation and progress of Pakistan."

This way, "we can promote religious harmony, tolerance and the spirit of nationalism, as well as promote the vision of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who dreamt of equal rights for all citizens without any discrimination."

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