Minorities enjoy equal rights in Pakistan: PM

-Says Government committed to Socio-economic emancipation of
non-Muslim citizens
-Appreciates contributions by non-Muslim citizens to national development
-Balochistan govt to establish directorate for minorities’ affairs
-National Day of Minorities observed countrywide

By Makhdoom
Shehryar Babar

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday said the government was taking steps to mainstream minorities in the country by ensuring a level-playing field while terming them as equal citizens as Muslims.
“The idea is to enable and facilitate all segments of society, particularly our non-Muslim citizens, to take a full part in the national life,” he said in a message on the National Day of Minorities.
PM Sharif said the government was taking steps to provide equal opportunities to minorities such as allocation of special quota at representative fora, and also in educational institutions and other services.
He mentioned other measures for the uplift of poor minorities including dedicated financial support for their emancipation.
He said mending the fault lines of socio-religious exploitation besides eradicating its causes was the cornerstone of the government’s policies.
The prime minister mentioned that National Day of Minorities, which is celebrated on the 11th of August every year, serves to highlight the contributions that the non-Muslim Pakistani citizens made to national development. “This day we express our gratitude to our minority communities for their meritorious services for the uplift of the motherland,” he said. “The day also reminds us of our constitutional, religious and political responsibility to protect their rights and freedoms.”
He said Islam is a religion of peace, harmony, and tolerance. According to the Holy Quran, there is no compulsion in matters of religion, he added.
He said the Quranic precept coupled with the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) provides a basis for the principle enunciated by Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah in his historic address to the nation on 11th August 1948.
Emphasizing freedom of religion and sanctity of the lives and property of minorities, he said the right had further been statutorily formalized in the country’s constitution.
PM Sharif said the government stands committed to these obligations and officially celebrates the 11th of August to reiterate its resolve towards the achievement of the noble objective of building an inclusive society in line with the vision of the Quaid-i-Azam.
He reaffirmed the coalition government’s resolve for the betterment and welfare of minorities and their fullest inclusion in national life and development.
“I will also avail myself of this opportunity to call upon our brothers and sisters from all minority communities to keep playing their role for the promotion of an atmosphere of tolerance and mutual accommodation,” he said.
He said, “This is the only course which leads to the achievement of our shared objective of promoting interfaith harmony and peace in our society. Pakistan belongs to its people without any discrimination of caste, creed, and colour.”
Meanwhile, Balochistan government has initiated a plan of setting up directorate for minorities’ affairs in Quetta during the current financial year to ensure their (minorities) inclusion in the provincial and national development by providing them equal opportunities in socioeconomic and political sphere.
The government had allocated Rs 50 million for the establishment of endowment fund for minorities to provide them financial assistance in case of any emergency, a senior official of Balochistan government said on Thursday.
He said that the provincial government had also provided financial assistance amounting to Rs 89 million to 10,136 poor people of minority communities of the province.
Moreover, the provincial government had also allocated five per cent job quota for minorities in different government departments to enable them to play an important role in progress and prosperity of the country, he added.
The Balochistan government, during the last three years, had renovated and repaired a total of 213 worship places of minority communities at a cost of Rs 240 million.
According to a senior official of Balochistan government, the provincial government has provided four well equipped ambulances worth Rs 6 million each for the welfare of minority community living in the province.
He said the provincial government had awarded some 1,618 scholarships to minority students studying in various educational institutions with the cost of Rs 89 million.
Students from various minority communities of the province would be awarded hundreds of scholarships every year, he said.
He also mentioned that the provincial government had expended Rs 105 million to provide medical assistance to the poor and needy patients suffering from different chronic diseases.