Open doors

Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani

DG ISPR Major General Asif Ghafoor Bajwa has recently given a very positive statement that people from all schools of thought are welcome to join the Pakistan Army and that when a soldier wears military uniform then his ultimate goal of life is to defend his homeland.

Another good news of the week is that Pakistan, after a period of two years, has managed to win a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council. No doubt, this success demonstrates a strong vote of confidence within the international community in our contribution to the human rights agenda. The active participation of our political leaders in the holy festivals of religious minorities reflects that the political leadership is united to safeguard the rights of all citizens. Similarly, the initiative by the former PM for supporting endeavours such as those by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy to revive a progressive image of Pakistan was also praise-worthy.

At a time when the world’s confidence in Pakistan is being restored, the demand for imposing a ban on a religious minority’s members joining national institutions is highly unjustified and condemnable. I am afraid that such unnecessary acts will result not only into chaos in our society but could also facilitate foreign players to malign our beloved country.

Historically, the ‘divide and rule’ policy of British imperialism has resulted in the ongoing sectarianism which we are forced to observe in our daily life. Although Quaid-e-Azam believed in providing equal opportunities to every citizen of Pakistan, after his sad demise the rights of the country’s non-Muslims were badly manipulated.

In our 70-year history, we have made numerous mistakes and on a number of occasions have exploited our national institutions for the sake of our own personal interests. Today almost every institution lost the respect in the eyes of public due to corruption complaints and irregularities. Interestingly, the judiciary and the armed forces are very popular among patriotic citizens. Both institutions have a bright track record of welcoming all Pakistani citizens into their ranks, regardless of religious affiliation of belief.

The appointment of Rana Bhagwan Das (late) as chief justice of the Supreme Court was a very encouraging message that any citizen who believes in hard work and professionalism can secure the highest position in the country’s judiciary. The unbiased decisions by the Hindu chief justice of an Islamic country also brought a good name to Pakistan as a whole. Similarly, our armed forces are playing an unparalleled role not only for ensuring peaceful Pakistan for every citizen but also in the world. Today, US President Donald Trump is also paying tribute to Pakistan due to their positive role for rescue of Canadian abducted family. Recently, a Hindu soldier named ‘Lal Chand’ belonging to Sindh had also sacrificed his life in the South Waziristan Operation.

The presence of people with diverse backgrounds is in fact the beauty of any institution in a democratic and civilised society; so that people can all join hands to move their country towards peace and prosperity. We must respect the fundamental right of any individual or community to have a different faith. Even if there is a difference in opinion, targeting minority communities in the name of patriotism must not be encouraged.

Unfortunately, some extremist elements believed that Pakistan was founded only for Muslims. Such people do not tolerate the presence of non-Muslims or their places of worship. I recommend them to study the Charter of Madina which provided equal civic rights to every Muslim and non-Muslim citizen. Even, the defence of Madina was a joint responsibility of both groups, in case of an attack by external powers.

In modern history, we see that people from diverse backgrounds succeeded in transforming the US into a superpower that champions democracy, human rights, and individual freedom.

If we want to see Pakistan as a developed and successful country then we must also promote the culture of tolerance, harmony and respect. We must acknowledge the positive role played by non-Muslims for the betterment of the country since the Pakistan Movement. We must understand that Quaid-e-Azam had included non-Muslims in his cabinet not due to their religious beliefs but because of their talent and qualification.

Naming one department on Quaid-e-Azam University after a non-Muslim scientist is only to acknowledge his contributions in the fields of science and technology. Every institute must follow the example set by the judiciary and the armed forces to open its doors for every citizen on merit, regardless of minority or majority debates.

The writer is a member of the National Assembly and patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council.

Twitter: @RVankwani