06/20/2013, 00.00
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Christian minister in Islamabad: Economics and minority rights, here are my challenges

by Jibran Khan
From 8 June Kamran Michael is Federal Minister for Ports and Shipping in the PML-N-led government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. For 10 years a member of the provincial assembly of Punjab, he is the second Christian (after Shahbaz Bhatti) to play a leading role in the executive. A plan for development and the goal of peace.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) - "My appointment to the Federal Ministery for the Ports and Shipping is a clear message to minorities: the PML-N [Pakistan Muslim League-Nawazf, winner of the elections last May 11] wants to defend them and to ensure equal rights for everyone", says the Christian politician Kamran Michael to AsiaNews. On June 8 last he was appointed to the Ministry which has a strategic importance in the context of the national economy. The previous legislature, led by the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), saw the first appointment of a member of the executive of minorities within the overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim nation. However, the political battle of the Catholic Shahbaz Bhatti - Minister for Religious Minorities - was stopped 2 March 2011 by a group of Islamic extremists, who brutally assassinated him in cold blood.

In the new PML-N executive, considered close to Islamic fundamentalist circles, the role of the Federal Minister for Shipping and Ports was awarded to Kamran Michael. Born October 9, 1973 in Lahore, he is a graduate of the University of Punjab and since 2002 a member of the local provincial assembly. A well known businessman in the spheres of finance, in 2012 he was the first non-Muslim to hold the annual speech on the budget, after the controversy triggered by the Islamist fringes against his appointment in the previous year.

Kamran Michael has been in the party "for over 10 years" and now "I was assigned a key role, a great responsibility." Thinking of the anti-Christian attacks in Shanti Nagar, Gojra, Kasur, Gosh and Aman he describes them as "tragic events" and ensures the commitment "of the PML-N for reconstruction." "We have plans for the development of minorities - he adds - we will ensure that they can live in peace."

In reference to the situation across the country, he defines it as "uncertain" and with many challenges to face and solve: extremism, the energy crisis, sectarian violence, terrorism and economic problems. In addition to the "presence" of "elements" who want to "destabilize" the nation. "The situation and events - he adds -  will not change overnight, but we have a clear position and we are determined to solve the challenges."

"I have personally experienced discrimination - says Kamran Michael - in my professional life, but I cannot blame a government specifically for this. It is a constant of those who want to sow hatred and discord. Our goal is to bring everyone together around the table, to speak and listen to the proposals. " He asks for a "joint work" that is able to overcome the "minority syndrome" affecting non-Muslims, "accepting us for what we are: citizens of Pakistan." The recent appointment of a Sikh to the provincial assembly of Punjab falls precisely into this groove. The Christian politician is aware of the importance of the new role, in a strategic sector for the revival of the national economy: "I hope to better fulfill the assignment - he concludes - and try to do it in the name and by the grace of God."


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