The important role played by religious minorities in the creation and development of Pakistan was recalled by the participants of seminar organized by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI).
Speaking at the seminar titled ‘Role of Minorities in Nation-building’, Romaina Khurshid, MNA from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, said that legislation must be drafted to put a stop to the practices of forced religious conversion and forced marriages of girls belonging to minority communities. “Minorities made important contributions for the creation of Pakistan and have a right to practice their religion,” she said.
She expressed concern over reported cases in which girls as young as 16 and 17 years of age were forced into marriages to Muslims and converted against their will.
She quoted from a press conference by the Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah held on November 14, 1946 where he said: “I am not fighting for Muslims, believe me, when I demand Pakistan.”
The role of minorities in Pakistan’s creation and development is undeniable
“Non-Muslims played their role in the development of the country but their services are hardly recognised. Lahore is part of Pakistan because three Christian members of the Punjab Assembly, in 1947, polled their decisive votes in favour of Pakistan,” she said.
Romaina Khurshid reminded the audience that education is another major area in which minorities have made significant contribution. Right after Pakistan came into being, Quaid-e-Azam requested the Parsee community to allow Muslim children to be admitted to their schools. Since then Muslims have studied in Parsee institutions.
“Eminent leaders of Pakistan including Quaid-e-Azam, Liaquat Ali Khan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Zia-ul-Haq, Benazir Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif and General Pervez Musharraf got their education from missionary schools,” she added.
She said that Hindu community has also made contributions to health and education. Ganga Ram Hospital and Dyal Singh College are some examples from Punjab.
Prominent writer Ahmed Salim speaking at the event said that our textbooks didn’t recognise the services of minorities. “Non-Muslims are four to five per cent of the population but their role in the development of the country is enormous. Now minorities complain of forced conversions and marriages,” he said.
Mr. Salim criticised the role of political parties who don’t give general membership to non-Muslims but have created minority wings.
“Extra points are given to Hafiz-e-Quran in appointments and admissions to different departments and institutions, but the same is not done for non-Muslims if they know some chapters of their religious book. This practice affects merit,” he said.
SDPI Executive Director, Dr Abid Suleri, underscored the importance of minority rights. “If minorities in Pakistan are not being treated well, how can we expect Muslims in other countries to be treated equally?” he said.
Mr. Suleri said that with the support of his organization, a ‘Parliamentary Non-Muslim Caucus’ has been established to strengthen the role of non-Muslim parliamentarians. “This platform can be used to take collective decisions,” he said….. EA Report