Special Representative to the P.M. Tahir Ashrafi says frequent meetings between people of all religions will boost interfaith harmony
Religious minorities in Pakistan should not allow any individual or group to terrorize them, as the Constitution of Pakistan guarantees their equal rights, Special Representative to the P.M. on Religious Harmony Tahir Ashrafi said on Wednesday.
Addressing the National Conference for Women under the aegis of the Interfaith Harmony Council, he noted that people of all religions had played their role in the creation of Pakistan. He also stressed upon Muslims that they were duty-bound to ensure the rights of minorities were respected.
The special representative claimed, erroneously, that no cases of blasphemy had been reported in Pakistan in the past eight months and vowed that the incumbent government would not allow anyone to misuse the blasphemy laws. As recently as March, a man was killed over blasphemy allegations in Punjab’s Jhang. In May, a mob likewise tried to lynch a man accused of blasphemy near Islamabad.
At the same time, there has been little let-up in vigilantes taking the law into their own hands over blasphemy allegations. Just last week, a police constable killed a man who had been acquitted of blasphemy charges. There has also been a dramatic increase in reported cases of forced conversions, with activists urging the government to implement laws outlawing the practice.
Ashrafi stressed that Islam did not permit forced conversions, adding that religious teachings are clear in directing Muslims to respect the faith and sacred personalities of all religions.
Referring to past terror attacks on churches, the special representative claimed that it was madrassa students who had always rushed to the venue to aid in rescue efforts and donate blood to their Christian brothers. Likewise, he said, when mosques were targeted by extremists, it was Christians who donated blood to their Muslim brothers. “We should promote interfaith harmony by arranging frequent get-togethers of believers of all religions,” he said and lauded goodwill gestures by Palestinian Christians during Israeli attacks.
He said that Christians in Palestine had even opened the gates of their churches for Muslims and offered them safety when Israeli aggression peaked during Ramzan earlier this year.
Ashrafi also sought to dismiss the perception that women were treated poorly due to religious injunctions. He said Islam was the first religion to provide unprecedented rights to women, adding that it stresses the protection of rights of wives and daughters. He said the holy Quran provided inheritance rights to daughters and Islam permitted women to do business.
Quoting verses of the Quran, he said the murder of even one human being was tantamount to the killing of all of mankind, while saving the life of one person was akin to saving the lives of whole of mankind. He also commented on the ongoing Afghanistan peace process, stressing that Islamabad wanted peace and tranquility in the neighboring state, and would never allow the use of its soil against any country.