NAROWAL: Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal was shot and injured after addressing a rally in his constituency Narowal here on Sunday.
The assailant, Abid, shot at the interior minister at his right shoulder from a distance of 15 yards as he was sitting in his vehicle to leave the rally ground in Kanjrur, confirmed DPO Imran Kishwar.
Workers of Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N), standing near the assailant, caught hold of the man before handing him over to the authorities.
A 30-bore pistol was recovered from the arrested suspect, aged between 20-22 years, confirmed DPO Kishwar. Abid is reportedly a resident of Narowal.
Iqbal was shifted to the hospital immediately after the incident. His son, Ahmed, confirmed his father was conscious and out of danger.
“He is receiving initial medical treatment at DHQ Hospital in Narowal,” Ahmed told Geo News, adding that his father would be shifted to Lahore for further medical aid.
State Minister for Interior Tallal Chaudry, in an exclusive conversation with Geo News, said that suspect’s age was between 20 and 22 years. Chaudhry said an investigation was underway into the incident.
The Inspector General of Punjab Arif Nawaz took notice of the incident and summoned a report from Narowal DPO Kishwar. The police chief issued orders to take strict legal action against the suspect.
Political figures condemn incident
Pakistan Peoples Party Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari condemned the attack on the interior minister. “We have to put a stop to such incidents,” said Zardari.
“PTI strongly condemns [the] attack on Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal,” Fawad Chaudhry tweeted.
PPP leader and Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Sherry Rehman expressed regret at the incident.
ISLAMABAD: Former interior minister and senior Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Chaudhry Nisar said on Saturday that he is not disgruntled and will remain in the party.
“I am not upset with Nawaz Sharif or the party. I will attend whichever party meeting I am invited to and will stay away when I am not invited,” Nisar told journalists.
He added that he stands with the PML-N, “but not the party which restricts freedom of thought or a party in which having a difference of opinion is a major crime.”
The former interior minister said that he was the only founding member who still remained in the PML-N.
He said that after having stayed loyal to the party throughout, he is disliked only because he shared his difference of opinion, adding, that his advice cannot be considered as disloyalty and that he has no plans or ambitions to leave the party.
“I have not demanded any designation or anything from the party. I have been minister thrice,” Nisar said.
Nisar, in his press conference, said the press has freedom and it speculates and runs things as it wishes. He said his visit to Shehbaz Sharif’s home was misreported; Nisar explained that he enjoyed a personal relationship with the younger Sharif and would call on him everytime he was in Lahore.
He said that when the issue of Panama Leaks surfaced, he had presented his stance before the former prime minister Nawaz Sharif as the interior minister.
Nisar said that he was among the few leaders who suggested that Nawaz shouldn’t go to the Supreme Court and when the former prime minister turned towards giving critical speeches he had advised against it.
The former interior minister reiterated that he had advised Nawaz to change his tone towards the military and the judiciary.
He said that he left his designation for the sake of his stance.
Nisar minced no words about having severe reservations over the PML-N’s choice of candidates but added that he still went and voted for them.
He said that he despite all his reservations he stayed with the party.
“Someone should tell me when I showed disloyalty to the party?” said the PML-N senior leader.
Nisar also thanked Imran Khan and his party leaders during the press conference for the invitation from the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf.
Recently, Asif Mohmand went on in search of the vanishing voices of the native birds. He then tried to explore a connection of these vanishing voices with the growing threats and vulnerabilities resulting from the Climate Change and that how these are being responded to by the relevant authorities and prevailing development discourse on ground.
Bashir Khan, 50, standing at the corner of his field of wheat crop, narrates the story of the vanishing voices of balbala (Molapestes Cafer***), tootkhwaraka, toranaka (Turdus Merula), chaty (Troglodytidae), zyaraka (Oriolus) and kurkuray (Streptopelia bengalensis). Five Kilometers away from the main city of Mardan, Bashir Khan is a farmer in the Union Council Babinai where his family is engaged in agriculture since his forefathers times. He claims that twenty five years ago from now, the voices of all these birds were there, and until they were there, the farmers in the area were also prosperous. These birds were the protectors of their crops, guarding them from the harmful pests and insects. Today, along with Bashir Khan, almost all of the farmers in the area are using agricultural pesticides. “It has weakened us financially and it is affecting our health as well. Besides, when we talk about use of pesticides on vegetables, including Tomato, Ladyfinger, Bitter Gourd, Cauliflower, and Cabbage, all of these are our day to day food items. There are pesticides that are not effective only on the outer skin of the plant; rather they get absorbed into it, like in Eggplant and Tomato, and when we utilize the same as food, it certainly affects us and our health,” Bashir Khan remarked. He shared that he had been listening to the stories of the songs of these birds from his elders as these birds co-existed with the people and at times had nests in their houses. For generations, a significant number of women, he added, were named after these birds. Today, neither those names exist, nor those birds and their songs.
In response to the search for vanishing voices of the protectors of Bashir Khan’s crops, we learnt that the Divisional Wildlife Department in Mardan, primarily responsible for the protection and conservation of Birds and other wildlife, lacks any kind of information, pictures, or record of the native birds and wildlife. Due to the absence of the Divisional Forest Officer in his office, Muhammad Tariq, Office Assistant, confirmed that the native birds are going extinct faster in District Mardan due to growing population and the effects of climate change. He shared that there is no separate scheme with the Office for the conservation of the native birds; however, there are fifty three (53) Watchers in Mardan Division keeping an eye on the illegal hunt of birds and other wildlife. It is important to note that the Divisional Wildlife Office Mardan issues permits for hunting in specific months of the year. As per the office record, four hundred and sixty two (462) shooting licenses were issued during January 2017 – January 2018, resulting into a revenue of one million seven hundred and fifty thousand (PKR 1,750,000) for the Divisional Wildlife Office.
In order to protect birds and other wildlife, there are eighteen (18) wildlife offices in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province. As per the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Wildlife Department Peshawar, KP province is the habitat of the majority of the bird species in Pakistan as the climatic conditions prevailing in the province are suitable for both native and visiting birds, in comparison to other provinces. Among the six hundred and sixty eight (668) bird species in Pakistan, four hundred and fifty four (454) species are in KP province. Niaz Khan, Divisional Forest Officer, opined that the extinction of native birds in Mardan and in other neighboring regions is a result of the disappearance of fruit trees and other native trees and plants like Naranj (Citrus acida), Bera (Zizyphus jujube), Kharwala (Salix), Toot (Morus Nigra) and Shawa (Dalbergia siasso). “The habitats are not in favorable conditions (for these native trees and plants), or they don’t have suitable temperatures and climatic conditions available to them”, Niaz Khan added.
Where have the birds protecting the crops of around forty eight thousand (48000) farming families in District Mardan, including that of Bashir Khan, disappeared? How many, and which ones, of the native birds in various parts of the province have got extinct? And how many are remaining? Nobody can answer these questions. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Wildlife Department lacks any such information. It is, however, important to note that the Wildlife Department has received, during 2013 to 2018, a budget of one billion and thirty one lakh (PKR 1,003,100,000), however, despite the budgetary allocations, the situation of protection of native birds – the protectors of crops of thousands of families, including Bashir Khan – is that the relevant Department neither has any record, nor any program for the protection and conservation of the remaining native birds in the province.
BirdLife International, a global partnership of conservation organizations, states in a report that two hundred (200) species of birds have got extinct from the world. Syed Kamran Hussain, Coordinator Research for KP at World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in Peshawar, is of the view that the irrational use of natural resources is a threat to biodiversity globally, resulting into climate change and its severe impacts evident on the lives of the people. United Nations has declared climate change as one of the significant threat to life in the current times. Changes in climate are threatening biodiversity, environmental systems, food and agriculture in the world. “The birds residing on the banks of rivers and water had their nests in a native tree, called Kharola (Salix). However, since Kharola takes more time in maturing into a tree, and also had a growing demand in the sports industry, these trees were cut down”, Kamran Hussain explained.
It is important to keep in mind that ensuring protection of biodiversity in the world and climate change are parts of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 2030 agenda. Alongside, a multilateral treaty, Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), adopted in 1992, also exists which focuses on the conservation of biological diversity and sustainable use of natural resources. Pakistan has signed the Convention in 1992 and has ratified it in 1994. Under the Convention, each Member State has to develop national strategies and targets for the conservation of biodiversity and sustainable use of biological resources. Biodiversity Action Plan – Pakistan, prepared in 1999, besides other targets, prioritizes the sustainable use of biological resources; the maintenance of biodiversity; and strengthening of human knowledge, will and capacity to conserve biodiversity. Besides, in order to follow-up on the CBD and its “Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and the Aichi Targets”, the “Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan” was developed in 2016 with the support of GIZ, a non Government Organization. The Action Plan consists of several targets to be achieved by 2025, including the sustainable use of resources, and awareness about the importance of biodiversity and its conservation.
Despite the claims made for the protection of the environmental system in the last twenty (20) years and the adoption of strategies and action plans, the voices guaranteeing the sustainability of the system have, since the last twenty five (25) years, vanished from the Union Council Babinai in Mardan. Today, including Bashir Khan, thousands of farmers no more listen to the songs of the protectors of their crops.
[pullquote]*This text story is based on the audio documentary attached with the story.
Asif Mohmand and Noor Ul Islam are partners at PROGNAT DEVELOPMENT INITIATIVE.
The scientific/ biological names in this text story are used after consultation with Dr. Muhammad Adnan, Assistant Professor, Department of Zoology, University of Peshawar.
Asif Luqman Qazi , Political Advisor to Ameer JI Sirajul Haq, has demanded that Chief Justice Supreme Court of Pakistan should initiate an inquiry against seven show cases of corruption in current Khyber Pukhtunkhwa government.
These seven departments and projects are heavily damaged by corruption, mismanagement and nepotism on part of chief minister Khyber Pukhtunkhwa Pervaiz Khattak. These Include BRT Peshawar project that had caused billions of rupees of losses to the exchequer in the province due to loopholes in design. These frequent changes in design have given opportunities to contractors, who are cronies of party leadership; to exploit funds from the project.
The second show case of corruption is PEDO where one party leader’s interference has compelled management to hire hundreds of officers who draw huge salaries and perks. This has resulted in compromising department’s performance and financial strength. Third show case of corruption in province is three billion tree tsunami project that had become notorious due to false claims and exaggeration on part of their party leadership. Hundreds of party activists were given opportunity to make money or of fake billings.
Even officers of forest department in the province are witness to this. Fourth show case of corruption, nepotism and mismanagement is KP EZMDC, a company established to develop special economic zones for industrialisation in the province.
Hundreds of relatives of PTI leadership were hired at heavy salaries but performance of this department so far is a big zero. Party favourites draw more than 500 million rupees in safeties alone other than perks. The fifth show case of corruption is the 34 billion rupee flood retaining wall along the Kabul river. No quantitative audit of this project can be conducted as a large part of stones are simply dumped into the river by a ring of chief minister’s near and dear ones who were miraculously successful in securing bids.
Sixth show case of corruption is the mining and minerals department of tiger province whose minister himself came before media to disclose nepotism and corruption of the chief minister. Seventh show case of corruption are three contracts awarded by construction and works department in chief minister’s home district Nowshehra. Chief minister appointed his nephew Zarak Khattak as EXEN C&W in Nowshehra district and most of finds were siphoned to roads under his stewardship.
Asif Luqman Qazi appealed to Chief Justice Supreme Court of Pakistan to establish an inquiry into these seven show cases of corruption and nepotism in provincial governments as it has damaged valuable projects to the province and has kept people in deprivation while only a few families have minted money.
The Provincial Accountability Commission is unable to take action against sitting Chief Minister. Provincial Accountability Commission had been working without a head for most of the last five years. Last head of Provincial Accountability Commission resigned after leveling serious allegations against the Chief Minister Parvaiz Khattak.
In a landmark verdict, the Supreme Court today ruled that the disqualification handed down to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif under Article 62 (1)(f) of the Constitution is for life. The decision also affects Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s Jahangir Tareen.
What impact will the ruling have on Pakistan’s largest party? How will it impact the upcoming general elections? Where do the Parliament and the judiciary stand after this decision? Analysts and politicians give their take:
‘The verdict will decide the tone PML-N takes’ — Mazhar Abbas
We will have to wait for the reaction of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf. The decision will have its political implications. Nawaz Sharif will intensify his narrative and it will be difficult for Shahbaz Sharif to take a different line from the one being towed by Nawaz.
The timing of the verdict will decide the tone the PML-N takes for the next general elections. Crises will be deepened if Shahbaz keeps his tone soft.
‘Nawaz will devise his electoral campaign around the verdict’ — Talat Hussain
The decision will affect the party and the workers. The question is whether Nawaz Sharif will accept the decision or not. I think he will not accept it and intensify his campaign.
Yes, there is a chance that the PML-N would boycott the next general elections, but any such decision will destroy the party. My opinion is that Nawaz will devise his electoral campaign around the verdict.
‘It was clear that the disqualification would be for life’ — Justice Shaiq Usmani
When it comes to the character of a person, when the court decides that a person is not sadiq and ameen, it can’t be said that he was not sadiq and ameen for five years. It was clear that the disqualification would be for life.
Ordinary people are not impressed with the decision and the way the PML-N has played it, their popularity has increased. It may well be that our nation supports underdogs and those jin kay saath ziyadti hui.
The PML-N has only one option: If they win, they have the right to bring an amendment in the Constitution and remove the clauses that have led to Nawaz’s disqualification.
‘The credibility of the court has increased’ — Owais Ahmed
People might not understand legal intricacies but they will begin viewing these decisions as an increase in the credibility of judiciary.
There is no doubt that the courts didn’t take good decisions in the past, but when the judiciary was restored in 2009, a bold judiciary came into place.
The credibility of the court has increased to a great extent.
‘The definition the law is clear now’ — Sheikh Rasheed
The definition of the Article was not clear before today but now it is clear. I don’t know what role Nawaz Sharif will play but my analysis is this: sharif naam ki har siyasast election se pehle farigh ho gai.
‘There is no link between my case and Nawaz Sharif’s case’ — Jahangir Tareen
I always thought that disqualification was for life and should be. But please remember that my review is pending and I have not been disqualified for something illegal or for corruption. I pay my taxes. I was disqualified on very narrow grounds.
There is no link between my case and Nawaz Sharif’s case. He is a money launderer. I always declared my assets and he hid them.
‘The PPP believes in the supremacy of the Parliament’ — Syed Khursheed Shah
There is no need to fight now if the Supreme Court has ruled. The constitution and law under which Nawaz Sharif was punished is very clear.
The Pakistan People’s Party believes in the supremacy of the Parliament. Unfortunately, the enemies of the nation have trampled on the Parliament.
The Senate on Friday gave its assent to a bill seeking the extension of the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and Peshawar High Court (PHC) to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata).
The Supreme Court and High Court (Extension of Jurisdiction to Fata) Bill 2017 had been lying with the upper house since it was passed by the National Assembly in January. It is one of a handful of reforms paving the way for an eventual merger of the tribal areas with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
A committee comprising the entire upper house deliberated on the matter today, with the federal government opposing any further amendments to it since that would have meant the bill would have to be taken back to the NA for approval, which would have caused further delays.
Speaking on the occasion, Minister for States and Frontier Regions (Safron) Abdul Qadir Baloch said: “All rulers, including me, are indebted to the people of Fata. No efforts were made in the past to give full rights to the people of Fata.”
He also criticised the current legal system in place, whereby the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) — according to which jirgas accord punishments in civil and criminal cases on the basis of their own traditions and beliefs while the state assumes a limited role — regulates life in the region.
He assured the house that the government was serious in its commitment to ensure the merger of Fata with KP.
The bill saw opposition from the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) and the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) — both key political players in Fata and allies of the PML-N led government.
“The decision to approve the bill is against the people of Fata,” JUI-F Senator Maulana Attaur Rehman — whose party wants Fata to be made a separate province — said. “The parliament is losing its dignity,” he complained.
He further said that the bill being supported by both the government and the opposition raises questions about it being brought on “someone else’s” behest.
Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa had on Wednesday stressed that it is imperative that the region is “mainstreamed” and merged with KP according to the wishes of its people.
Debate around the merger of Fata has accelerated with the recent Pakhtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) protests demanding the restoration of routine life in Fata — even though the movement does not have an official stance on whether Fata should be merged with KP or carved into a separate province.
The Fata reforms, which include its merger with KP as well as the extension of courts’ jurisdiction, are a part of one of the points listed in the the National Action Plan (NAP) to counter terrorism in the country.
The move to extend jurisdiction was previously rejected by the opposition as it was perceived to be a delaying tactic used by the government to avoid the Fata merger in a bid to appease its coalition partners, the JUI-F and PkMAP, who opposed it.
The federal cabinet had approved the extension of the SC and Islamabad High Court (IHC) to Fata in September last year, but the NA Standing Committee on Law and Justice later changed it to PHC from IHC as MNAs from Fata said it would be extremely cumbersome for residents of Fata to travel to the federal capital for justice.
LARKANA: The key suspect in singer Samina Sindhu’s death case, Tariq Ali Jatoi, was on Thursday remanded in police custody for seven days by a judicial magistrate of Larkana.
The singer, said to be in her seventh month of pregnancy, had received a fatal bullet wound in her back while performing on the stage at a function in the Kanga village of Larkana district late on Tuesday night. Jatoi was arrested a little later.
He, along with two unidentified suspects, was booked for the alleged murder. Police produced Jatoi before the magistrate on Thursday to obtain his remand.
Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and civil society organisations including those of artists, condemned the alleged murder in a statement issued by the party’s media cell. “The murder of an artist and a woman is a heinous crime which would not be tolerated by the society,” the statement said.
Several local PPP leaders, elders of the nominated suspect and others visited the bereaved family and offered their condolences to Sindhu’s husband, Ashiq Samoo.
After a long round of negotiations with the Punjab government, Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) on Friday early morning called off its protest in Lahore and other cities.
Life in Lahore was disrupted on Thursday when TLP leader Khadim Hussain Rizvi ordered his workers to “come out on streets” until the party’s demands were met. The workers had choked the provincial capital’s major roads while smaller protests were also held in other cities of Punjab, including Sialkot, Sahiwal, Gujranwala, Kasur, Mandi Bahauddin, Chunia, Multan, Faisalabad and Muzaffargarh.
The announcement to end the protest was made by the TLP’s central council around 6am today. According to TLP’s chairperson Pir Afzal Qadri, the government has agreed to fulfill the terms of the Faizabad agreement that was brokered last year. Government officials reiterated that the report over the controversial amendment made in the Elections Act 2017 — prepared by a Raja Zafarul Haq-led commission — would be made public, he said.
Qadri also claimed that the government had agreed to drop the cases registered against TLP leaders and workers.
TLP leader Rizvi had been holding a protest at Lahore’s Data Darbar since April 2, demanding that the government fulfill his demands. The protest had escalated on April 12 (Thursday) as the party’s workers spilled out on the streets of major cities of Punjab, blocking major roads and national highways.
The Punjab police, while calling additional force from adjoining areas, were reluctant to use force. “The first priority remains a peaceful resolution,” said a senior police officer of Lahore. “Even if force is used as a last resort, it would be done with utmost restraint and be kept to the minimum,” he said. “Negotiations are still underway for the peaceful resolution.”
Talking to Dawn, TLP spokesman Pir Zubair Ahmad said his party was open to talks and no offer in this regard would be refused.
Punjab government spokesman Malik Ahmad Khan, while speaking on the cases registered against TLP leaders, told Dawn: “The only sticking point is court orders which have put the legality of the agreement under question and declared TLP leaders proclaimed offenders. This area would require directives from the court and the government would take up the matter with the court. The rest has been agreed upon and the ball is now in the court of the TLP.”
Ahsan Iqbal terms TLP protest “pointless”
Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, who is on a tour to China, had also appealed to Rizvi to end the protest. In a statement, he termed TLP’s protest “pointless” since the government had already accepted all the party’s demands.
“Raja Zafarul Haq’s report has been presented in court. In order to avoid conflict, we even let go our law minister,” Iqbal said, adding that protests by TLP were ruining Pakistan’s image internationally.
“Protests like these are the reason behind Pakistan’s placement on FATF’s (Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering) grey-list,” he said. He further said that the enemies of Pakistan use these protests to portray it as a violent country when in reality it is a peace-loving, moderate nation.
In a landmark verdict that will change the course of the country’s political history, the Supreme Court on Friday ruled that disqualification handed down under Article 62 (1)(f) of the Constitution is for life.
According to DawnNewsTV, the verdict was issued unanimously by all five judges of the bench.
Article 62(1)(f), which sets the precondition for a member of parliament to be “sadiq and ameen” (honest and righteous), is the same provision under which Nawaz Sharif was disqualified by a five-judge SC bench headed by Justice Asif Saeed Khosa on July 28, 2017, in the Panama Papers case. Likewise, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leader Jahangir Tareen was disqualified on Dec 15 last year by a separate bench of the apex court under the same provision.
Following the verdict, both Sharif and Tareen have become ineligible to ever hold public office.
It has been stated in the decision read out Justice Umar Ata Bandial that the disqualification of any member of parliament or a public servant under Article 62 (1)(f) in the future will be permanent. Such a person cannot contest elections or become a member of parliament.
Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, who was heading the bench, remarked before the verdict was announced that the public deserves “leaders of good character”. A detailed version of the judgment is currently awaited.
‘Question should be left to parliament’
A five-judge bench ─ headed by CJP Nisar and comprising Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Sajjad Ali Shah ─ had on February 14 reserved the judgment on 17 appeals and petitions challenging the length of disqualification under Article 62(1)(f) for possessing fake degrees.
At the last hearing, Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf had told the bench that it was not the function of courts to say that the disqualification under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution was for life or to give any timeline. The question should be best left for parliament to decide, he had argued.
The AG had also emphasised that the provision did not determine the length of disqualification, adding that the court would have to look into the matter on a case-to-case basis.
Though there was no clear determination about the length of disqualification in Article 62 (1)(f), former chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry had held in the 2013 Abdul Ghafoor Lehri case that under Article 63, there were certain disqualifications which were of temporary nature and a person disqualified under Article 63 could become qualified after the lapse of a certain period.
Whereas, the verdict held, the disqualification under Article 62 was of permanent nature and a person had to fulfil certain qualifications/conditions to become eligible to be elected or chosen as a member of parliament. Thus Article 62 did not provide any period after which a person, who was declared disqualified under this article, could be eligible to contest the elections, it said.
Former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was disqualified on June 19, 2012 from holding a seat in parliament for committing contempt of the court on moral turpitude in terms of Article 63 of the Constitution which specifies disqualification for a period of five years.
Legal observers say the Supreme Court has handed down different verdicts on the disqualification of legislators like in the case of Iftikhar Ahmed Cheema who was de-seated in 2015 from the NA-101 constituency for concealing assets. Subsequently, he contested the by-election and regained his seat.
But in the case of Rae Hassan Nawaz, the apex court disqualified him under Article 62(1)(f). Likewise, the court allowed Jamshed Dasti to contest the election, but disqualified Rizwan Gill, Samina Khawar Hayat and Amir Yar under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution.
This is a developing story that is being updated as the situation evolves. Initial reports in the media can sometimes be inaccurate. We will strive to ensure timeliness and accuracy by relying on credible sources such as concerned, qualified authorities and our staff reporters.
Many lament how interfaith harmony is fizzling out. Yet, those strive to foster such harmony are rejected and viewed with suspicion. This “do nothing and sit around” attitude should be discarded, should we want ourselves to live in a tolerant society.
These thoughts came in a workshop-discussion organized by Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS), on “Engaging on freedom of faith and inter-faith harmony” in Islamabad on 12 April 2018. The workshop was attended by around 20 experts, faith leaders, and development professionals who have worked in the domain of interfaith harmony. The purpose of the discussion was to know how to undertake different activities aimed at enhancing interfaith harmony.
Senior journalist Sabookh Syed agreed that media have been reporting mostly on political and security happenings, at the cost of issues pertaining to inter-faith harmony. But he reminded that media itself are influenced by viewers’ choices. While we tend to talk a lot, blaming media for everything, we rarely take action to our betterment, he said, summarizing, “Vote and remote are in your hands.”
Participants were told about the centrality of society in creating a peaceful environment. Unless people embrace each other, expecting state authorities to do is illogical. To this end, faith leaders can play critical role too.
Discussing that role, religious scholar Amanat Rasool discussed that faith leaders can bring about reforms in the society through their religious sites.
Youth activist Zeeshan Zafar stressed that the country’s youth population seems to going in the wrong direction, largely because of the environment they are brought upon it. He stressed upon prioritizing reforms in educational curriculum.
It was also suggested that religious tourism in the country can also help in melting people’s opinion about each other.
Development expert Rashad Bokhari commended the work of people and organizations striving for a tolerant and peaceful free society, but lamented that such change agents are wrongly linked to external forces. This, he said, is the biggest hindrance in attempting to undertake any such activity, calling for discarding this attitude.