ISLAMABAD, Jul 10 (APP):Minister for Information, Broadcasting, National History and Literary Heritage Barrister Syed Ali Zafar Tuesday said growing poverty, lack of education and galloping population were causes of extremism and religious intolerance, and everybody should come together to resolve the issues.
Speaking here at a consultative session on “Minority Rights, Freedom of Religion or Belief; Faith for Rights”, he said the Quaid-e-Azam had personified the vision of Pakistan and quoted him as saying: “You are free; you are free to go to your temples. You are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion, caste or creed— that has nothing to do with the business of the state.”
He said extremism of any kind was a curse and religious intolerance that led to violence was its worst form. However, it was an issue not only in Pakistan but a worldwide phenomenon also.
In many cases, the reasons for extremism and violence against minorities were personal vendetta or political and territorial ones, he noted.
The minister said extremism should not be associated with religion. “No religion that I have studied talks about committing violence against other religions. No religion teaches intolerance and every religion teaches love.”
He said the people of Pakistan were peace loving just like others elsewhere in the world. “In Pakistan, we just don’t shake hands, we embrace one another so that the spirit of love is transmitted.”
The minister said the government, which was open and transparent, would want a powerful National Commission for Human Rights, which should be given funds and made self-sufficient. If the commission were not given funds it would be subservient to the government, he emphasized.
“We have to make every institution independent. Every institution, whether it is an investigation agency, court or security agency, should be powerful in its own right.”
He said no one had the right to interfere in the choice of other people about their religious beliefs.
“It is the fundamental right of everybody to live according to their own conscience. It is responsibility of the government to ensure that no citizen of the country imposes his will on others. The government should protect minority groups. The only way we progress is by eliminating extremism, whether by physical action against terrorism or by educating the citizens.”
Ali Zafar said Pakistan was made a scapegoat after the war in Afghanistan and the West then abandoned the country saying “we have abused you and used you and now we are leaving.”
Yet Pakistanis have single-handedly fought against the terrorists and succeeded. Now there is a need to ensure that such elements never raise their head again and this too can only be achieved through learning, he added.
He underlined the need for reforming the educational system and teaching students about subjects like interfaith harmony and tolerance just like hygiene and civics were taught in the earlier times so that true human right concepts remain ingrained in people’s minds.
While supporting the idea of limited government, he said the government that overrode religious beliefs of others, according to him, was not a limited government.
Referring to the judgment that ordered that civil servants must mention their religion on a form, the minister said the government should challenge the judgment as nobody should be asked to disclose his beliefs while seeking employment.
The government should not be so intrusive and nobody should be discriminated against in the matter of employment, he added.