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Thursday February 02, 2023

An unforgettable tour

December 02, 2022

After completing my five-day tour to Australia, I have now landed in Karachi. In my 50 years of life, I have visited numerous countries across the world, including the US, Canada, and several European countries.

However, my recent visit was quite informative in several aspects. The continent of Australia, which is geographically located in the south, is culturally considered an integral part of Western civilization.

The followers of Shri Param Hans Ji Maharaj, a Hindu saint from Karak district of present-day Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Pakistan, have established a magnificent ‘Teri Darbar’, consisting of five-acre land, in Sydney, where I was invited to attend the inauguration ceremony as a guest of honour. In my view, this ‘ashram’ can bring people living in Pakistan and Australia closer spiritually.

Hinduism is the third largest religion in Australia, with more than 684,000 followers. Most of the Hindus residing there are from India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Indonesia, etc. There is also a good number of Hindu citizens from Pakistan. It was a pleasant surprise to know that the Hindu minority community is considered as a model minority due to its outstanding contributions in the socio-economic uplift of the country. The first Hindu temple in modern Australia was established as the Hare Krishna Centre in Sydney. Currently, there are around 43 Hindu temples in different areas.

The name Australia is derived from the Latin word Australis (southern land), a name used, since ancient times, for an unknown continent in the southern side of the world map. Australia, until the early 19th century, was known as New Holland, a name given by Dutch explorer Abel Tasman in the 17th century. However, the British occupied the eastern half of Australia in the 18th century and established the first colony of New South Wales.

The discovery of new areas in mainland Australia led to an increase in British colonies, and five more colonies were established. On January 1, 1901 these six colonies mutually formed a federation and announced the establishment of the Commonwealth of Australia.

Since the formation of the federation, a democratic political system has been established in Australia. Currently, Australia is a federal parliamentary constitutional monarchy, comprising six states and 10 territories. Internationally, it is ranked at the top for civil liberties, democracy, healthcare, education, human rights, and political stability.

The national animal of Australia is the kangaroo, which is found only in the territories of Australia. Unfortunately, a dark side of Australia’s history is the massive genocide of the indigenous population.

Today, Australia is one of the developed and sovereign countries in the world, whose economy is stable and people are prosperous. The official language of Australia is English. However, due to a large number of immigrants, Urdu, Hindi, Chinese and other languages are also widely spoken. It is compulsory for children from six to 15 years old to go to school, which is why Australia’s literacy rate is 99 percent. Many Pakistani students are currently enrolled in Australian universities.

There are cordial relations between Pakistan and Australia at the official level. Both countries are cooperating with each other in different fields of life. Cricket also has a leading role in bringing the people of two countries closer. The popularity of Pakistani players is quite high in Australia — an example of which is the marriage of former Pakistani cricketer Wasim Akram to Australian citizen Shaniera Akram.

The writer is a member of the National Assembly and patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council. He tweets @RVankwani

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