08/12/2020, 14.57
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Minority Day in Lahore: religious intolerance threatens the democratic order

by Shafique Khokhar

Human rights activists hold a national convention to affirm democratic values. The Punjab Legislative Assembly approves a resolution to include Ali Jinnah's famous speech in school curricula. Last month, however, the same Assembly passed a law that protects the Islamic religion. The pluralist vision of the Father of the Nation has yet to materialise.

Lahore (AsiaNews) – A public meeting was held yesterday to mark Pakistan’s Minority Day. Participants agreed that “religious intolerance is institutionalised and represents a threat to the democratic order of the country".

On 11 August 1947, three days before Pakistan's official birth, Quaid-e-Azam (Great Leader) Muhammad Ali Jinnah delivered a famous speech in favour of religious freedom and equality in what would be an overwhelmingly Muslim country.

In memory of the words of the Father of the Nation, the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) and other human rights organisations (including the National Commission for Justice and Peace) held a national convention to promote democratic values ​​against the "tyranny of the majority".

The various speakers expressed concern at the escalation of violence against religious minorities in the country.

CSJ executive director Peter Jacob said that the protection of minority rights must be boosted and the government should make it a policy priority.

“The authorities must take legal, political and administrative steps to address the challenge of including minorities,” he said.

Punjab's Minister for Human Rights and Minority Affairs Ejaz Alam Augustine tried to defend the work of the provincial government, noting that it has adopted several measures in favour of minorities. However, the latter has sent mixed signals.

On the one hand, the Punjab Legislative Assembly passed a law to protect Islam and ban insults against the Prophet Muhammad. On the other, yesterday it took an exceptional step and unanimously passed a resolution, presented by Khalil Tahir Sandhu, that calls for the inclusion of Ali Jinnah’s famous speech 73 years ago in educational curricula.

In that famous address, Ali Jinnah promised to build a country where all its citizens, regardless of their religion, would be equal in the eyes of the state and the law, and that each person would be free to profess and practise their religion.

For historian and political scientist Yaqoob Bangash, minorities have been waiting since then for Quaid-e-Azam’s vision to become reality, whereby all citizens in Pakistan are truly equal.

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