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November 1, 2013

Rich tributes paid to Iqbal Haider at book launch

November 1, 2013

Rich tributes were paid to former law minister and human rights activist Iqbal Haider (late) at the launch ceremony of a book containing his articles and tributes of his contemporaries, ‘Voice of Reason’, compiled by Zulfiqar Halepoto, at the Karachi Press Club on Thursday.
The ceremony was organised by the Pakistan Peace Coalition (PPC), the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) and the Pakistan Study Centre, University of Karachi.
Speaking on the occasion, Justice (retd) Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim said that Iqbal Haider was a true humanist, who worked for humanity without any discrimination. He recalled that when he became Governor Sindh the first person he invited was Iqbal Haider. “I asked Iqbal Haider what I should do, to which he asked me to make the Governor House a public place, especially the portion which was in the use of Quaid-e-Azam should be made accessible to the children,” he mentioned.
Member Indian Parliament Shahid Siddiqui said that Iqbal Haider was a major advocate of secularism. “He was active in increasing people-to-people contacts and raising human rights issues. In India, Iqbal Haider is regarded as champion of human rights, who fought legal battle in Supreme Court of Pakistan for the release of Indian fishermen,” he added.
Executive Director PILER Karamat Ali eulogized the efforts of Iqbal Haider for workers, especially the fishermen of both India and Pakistan. He recalled that in 2011 he appeared in the Supreme Court of Pakistan on behalf of Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) and PILER in a case for the release of Indian fishermen, which gave relief to over 450 Indian fishermen released by the Pakistan government. A similar petition was filed by Indian civil society activists in the Supreme Court, which resulted in the release of hundreds of Pakistani fishermen, he added.
He said Iqbal Haider was the founder President of Forum of Secular Pakistan, and he started writing articles in the

newspaper against the religious extremism in Pakistan.
PPC Secretary General B M Kutty recalled his political struggle along with Iqbal Haider, saying, he (Haider) was a leading lawyer of the Supreme Court of Pakistan as well as a political worker who extensively worked for the rights of downtrodden people, besides being a strong advocate of peace in South Asia.
Chairman Pakistan Study Centre, University of Karachi, Dr Jaffar Ahmed expressed regret that secularism was misunderstood and misinterpreted in Pakistan and those who support secularism were condemned and criticised. He pointed out that the state should be neutral for all religions since there happens to be a separate space for religion and secularism in a state all over the world. “Europe adopted secularism and provided a space to the religions, where people practice their religions according to their beliefs. The state should be secular and neutral in Pakistan as well. If there is pluralism in a society people would accommodate each other’s beliefs and like diversity for the betterment of collective life,” he remarked.
Dr Ahmed recalled that Quaid-e-Azam was a great advocate of parliamentary democracy and he was speaking for the British democracy when he was a member of the joint Indian parliament. “The famous August 11 speech of Quaid-e-Azam was a big proof that the leader of the nation had supported a secular Pakistan. The message was very clear that Pakistan had to be a federation with provincial autonomy and the state would be a secular one. Had there been a genuine federal system in Pakistan, we could have given due share to 54 per cent population living in the East Pakistan. Religion was actually used to divide,” he added.
Unfortunately, the state and state institutions have created a fundamentalism platform where there was no writ of the state, he said, adding, “Instead of a dialogue, you can engage fundamentalists as like Britain that engaged them in Northern Ireland”.
He said that the provincial autonomy should be provided with fiscal independence to all the provinces in Pakistan and the country be declared as secular state.
The author of the book, Zulfiqar Halepoto, lauded the role of Iqbal Haider as Senator. He recalled that Iqbal Haider raised the human rights issues at each level, including Senate.

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