Tolerant Pakistan By Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani

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Tolerant Pakistan
By Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani

There is a direct link between peace and prosperity of any society and that’s why all human societies either belonging to ancient Greek empires or today’s modern democratic countries, the focus is always to build a peaceful environment based on golden principles of tolerance, harmony and social justice. There are many historical and religious references in this regard. After 15 years of intensive fighting, the ancient Greek empires, Medes and the Lydia, finally had to sign a peace treaty in 585 BC. Various ancient philosophers including Aristotle, Socrates, Chanakya, Confucius, and Plato had expressed their respective views in support of peace and prosperity. Bible urged the message of humanity and love for all. A number of saints had spend their entire lives in the sub-continent to spread message of love across the region. Emperor Ashoka the Great was a ruler of ancient India who abandoned bloody conflicts in favour of love for all mankind. In the modern India, Mahatma Gandhi strongly believed in the principle of “ahimsa” which urges ‘not to injure’ and ‘compassion’ and refers to a key virtue in Hindusim. According to Jainism, protection of a life -including all animals, plants, and insects- is the supreme charity that a person can make to the society. Islam is known as the religion of peace where the Prophet (PBUH) is declared ” mercy to the universe” who urged to protect rights of all citizens regardless of religion and gender, prisoners, slaves, plants and animals. The Charter of Medina is the most significant document that formed the basis of a multi-religious Muslim state in Medina.

I believe that the teachings of all religions emphasize the followers to respect all other religions which is essential for religious tolerance. Tolerance does not mean agreeing with other people but disagreeing with them in a respectful way. Unfortunately, the intolerance can be observed in a larger scale at national and international level. Recent horrific murder of Mashal Khan in Mardan in an higher education environment, aggressive attitude shown in the parliament, rise of Islamophobia in west, and negative politics on the basis of discrimination, are some of the examples which were result of refusal to respect someone else’s opinions. In our country, the ongoing trend of killing other human beings must be discouraged and practical steps to avoid misusing blasphemy laws are need of hour.

In my views, a human must develop a strong bond with other fellow human beings on the basis of humanity and in this regard, just press statements or marking the world days are not enough. In the struggle to end intolerance in our society, I appeal to parents, teachers, media and political leaders for playing their pivotal due role. Parents and teachers must follow certain principles for the character building of a child. On the other hand, a person always try to follow his political leader as role model and take influence from the media. Both should preach the ethical values for the betterment of society.

In a democratic set up, majority has to rule but the minorities’ rights must also be protected. Pakistan has a unique status due to its Geo-strategic position on world map where Pakistani society consists of different multi-ethnic, multi- religious, multi- lingual society. The purpose of having a separate country Pakistan, according to the speech of Quaid-e-Azam on 11th August 1947, was to establish a welfare state where all citizens can spend their lives according to their own life styles but unfortunately, the state failed to implement this in letter and spirit.

The present rise of intolerance that we are observing today in Pakistan traced back to the time of independence when in 1947 hundreds of innocent lives were lost on both sides. We have to admit that state policies of past such as adoption of the Objective Resolution instead of Pakistan Resolution, denial of language of majority area East Pakistan, Military action in East Pakistan, and the Martial Law imposed by General Zia, have failed to deliver positive outcomes and thus, we should learn our mistakes to define future strategy. When China can open its economy, the same US where blacks were not allowed to enter in the restaurant is having a black president, the anti-religion USSR has been disbanded, South Africa has become a role model democratic country of white and black harmony, the enemy states of Europe have founded the European Union, then we must seek reasons that why positive values of tolerance, humanity and harmony are not flourishing here in our society.

A democratic state is like a mother where all citizens are treated equally with care but in Sindh, a unanimously passed bill to discourage forced conversions fails to become law just because of extremist pressure groups but despite complete ban of alcohol demanded by Non-Muslim citizens, the sale in the name of Non-Muslims cannot be halted. All the hate mongers who make religion a weapon to kill forget that respect of other religions is common in all religions. In the recent Mashal Khan murder, the murderers admitted that the actual reason was not blasphemy but ideological differences. The incident is a grave question mark on our society as well. A number of similar incidents are also reported in past. The Supreme Court, on my arguments has issued a detailed historical decision on 19th June 2014 for the protection of minorities’ rights but I don’t find its implementation status satisfactory. Still today, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government failed to remove hate material from the curriculum. Similarly, the situation in other provinces is also not so hopeful. Hundreds of citizens lost their lives due to religious intolerance. Many are forced to hide their religious affiliations to save their lives.

At the time when Pakistan is going to play a leading role on international level due to China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the appointment of Gen (R) Raheel Sharif as chief of Islamic Military, I urge to review the outdated past policies for the best interest of society as a whole.

Finally, I would also like to appeal the media, parliamentarians and civil society to join hands for promoting a society free from hate, intolerance and social evils to project positive image of our beloved country as a civilized democratic society. The image of peaceful “Tolerant Pakistan” would also ultimately result to bring prosperity for all citizens throughout the country.

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