'All minorities are part of Pak's social fabric'
Islamabad: All minorities are part of Pakistan's social fabric despite efforts by "misguided elements" to "sow seeds of suspicion and target religions", Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf said on Saturday ahead of Christmas.
Pointing to Pakistan's founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah's vision of an enlightened, moderate and tolerant country, Ashraf said: "All minorities are part of the Pakistani social fabric. We value the contributions and services of minority communities in general and the Christian community in particular in the development of our country".
The government is committed Jinnah's vision and Pakistan's Constitution "gives every individual the right to freely practice their religion and fairly share economic opportunities for their empowerment", he said at an official event held at Fatima Church in Islamabad.
Ashraf said the world community needs to do more to tackle efforts to create divisions along religious lines.
"Some misguided elements have tried to sow seeds of suspicion and target religions and their teachings," he said.
"Are our global institutions not capable of checkmating those who defame religions? We cannot sit back and allow a few extremists to attack our shared values or dictate their agenda," the premier told a gathering that included Paul Bhatti, Advisor to Prime Minister on National Harmony, Minister of State for National Harmony Akram Masih Gill, federal ministers, parliamentarians and diplomats.
During the year, the Pakistan Peoples Party-led government has been criticised by rights watchdogs and civil society groups for not doing enough to tackle sectarian violence and harassment of minorities like Hindus, Christians and the Ahmadi sect.
Scores of people, a majority of them Shias, have been killed in sectarian violence blamed on banned groups like the Pakistani Taliban and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.
The Hindu community has complained about the kidnapping and forced conversion of several women while the arrest of a teenage Christian girl, Rimsha Masih, on a trumped up charge of desecrating an Islamic text highlighted the misuse of Pakistan's harsh blasphemy law.
However, Ashraf pointed to steps taken by his government for minorities and pledged to do more.
"We need to close our ranks to promote shared values of compassion, moderation, tolerance and love. We need to foster a culture of interfaith dialogue in order to develop understanding," he said.
He noted that his cabinet recently approved a move to increase minority seats in the National Assembly from 10 to 14 while a five per cent quota had been introduced in federal government jobs for minorities.