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Forced change of religion a crime: PM

Says agenda of those giving verdicts about heaven or hell won’t be allowed to succeed; Pakistan was created to stop clash of religions; announces
Rs500 million for welfare of Hindu community

KARACHI: Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif has assured the people that the government would go for more stringent legislation to ensure peace and stability in the country and for safeguarding the minorities’ rights. He has made it clear that forced conversion of religion is not only a crime under the prevailing laws but Islam has also forbidden it.

The prime minister said this while addressing a gathering of Holi at a hotel here on Tuesday where he celebrated the day with the Hindu community.

The prime minister, in his back-to-back meetings, also addressed the office-bearers of the ruling PML-N in a candid manner and announced to contest the next year’s elections in Karachi and Sindh with more vigour.

He had an interactive meeting with industrialists and business community of the metropolis and announced formation of a committee under SindhGovernor Muhammad Zubair to formulate recommendations for strengthening the economy, enhancing revenue and business activities in the country. The PM kept on meeting political stalwarts after conclusion of his official engagements.

Political observers are of the view that the PM — who is undertaking an extensive tour of Gwadar and Balochistan today (Wednesday) — has made up his mood to initiate countrywide election campaign and for this purpose he was assessing political environment.

Addressing the Holi festival, PM Nawaz said that his government stood for complete religious freedom of all communities without discrimination. “It ensures them equal rights as enshrined in the Constitution,” he said. Addressing the participants of the Holi festival, the PM said that Islam has advised to treat all communities as equal, guaranteeing their rights by even enforcement of law. He said that the government would ensure complete freedom for all the religious minorities and if required further legislation would be enacted with stringent enforcement of laws for their rights and protection.

“Some people have been trying to do judgement in this world regarding award of hell or paradise to people but we will not allow agenda of such people to succeed,” he said. “We will let the entire world to become a paradise,” he said, adding Pakistan was created to stop the clash of religions.

“Pakistan was created on the basis of equal rights to all communities with complete religious freedom. Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Allama Iqbal had called for complete religious freedom for followers of different faiths,” he added. The PM vowed that attempts to create provincial prejudices or biases would not be allowed to hinder the path of religious tolerance and unity. He noted that diversity of religions and faith was a vital ingredient for unity and all the communities would have to transform this element to further foster the bonds of brotherhood and affection.

He said, “In the past, some elements wanted to weaken Pakistan by misusing religious differences or distorting the history, but the nation had rejected such attempts. As a nation, we share the common woes and joys. We are one. Our task is to transform this world into heaven.”

He elaborated that Islam was a religion which had given the highest priority to the sanctity of life and property of all and declared equal punishment for violators. “The Holy Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) had preached complete protection of religious worship places.

All the faiths shared similar teachings. Allama Iqbal had also declared religious intolerance as indication of the petty thinking. Iqbal conceived Pakistan to be a place of religious freedom and harmony.”

The prime minister said those elements, who tried to create fissures in a society on the basis of religion, had no place among the people. He stressed that the people should stand for truth and reality as these were the qualities which guaranteed complete peace and harmony in a society.

He expressed pleasure over attending the event by saying, “Today, all the communities across the length and breadth of the country are closely attached in bonds of interfaith harmony.”

Terming Holi an event of change, colours and happiness, the PM said that Pakistan was also transforming into a prosperous country and the world had acknowledged its economic turnaround under the PML-N government.”

“The world appreciated the positive changes in Pakistan,” he said while referring to a positive report published in ‘The Economist’ enlisting achievements gained by the country in the recent years. "Spring is also dawning upon the motherland, colourful flowers are sprouting. Pakistan has a very bright future," he added. Pakistan's development and prosperity, he said, belonged to all the people, whether they were young or old or belonged to any community. On this occasion, he announced an amount of Rs500 million for the betterment and welfare of the Hindu community and assured further assistance in this regard in future since its initiation.

The PM urged the people to stand together for protecting the religious places of all communities. He said there was no dispute over the religious freedom in the country today, the only tussle going on was between the good and the evil, the progressive and the retrogressive elements. “The ones who wanted better future for its youth, and the others who wanted to exploit them; one side wants prosperity, whereas the other is out to wreak havoc,” he added.

The PM said that the people had to prioritise their national responsibility and strengthen further unity in their ranks and fight the forces of fear, anarchy and injustices. He noted with satisfaction that the nation had never encouraged paltry politics for anarchy and commotion.  Talking about peace in Karachi, the PM said that due to his government's steps, lasting peace had been restored in the port city. “Now, the roads and streets are more secure as compared to three years back, when family members had to pray for the safety of their relatives and schoolgoing kids. The residents have also witnessed a sharp decline in cases of abduction for ransom.” He said that for the development of Karachi, the federal government was implementing the K-4 Water Supply Scheme with provision of 50 percent funding. “On the pattern of Metro Bus Service, the federal government at a cost of about Rs18-20 billion is constructing the Greenline Bus Service in Karachi,” he added. The prime minister said that the six-lane Hyderabad Motorway was also being completed with high quality work and with the assistance of the federal government. He lamented that after 1999, work on the motorway projects had stalled, but now his government was completing the same, linking all parts of the country which would not only reduce the travelling time and distance among cities but also bring the people closer.

The PM said that the Health Card Scheme should also be launched in Karachi and throughout Sindh. During his visit to Thatta, he had mulled over the initiative, he added. Nawaz Sharif said that he considered himself a common man and he didn’t consider himself a ruler. “It is my faith to continue serving the creatures of God as we will be asked by Allah about the service being done by us for his creatures,” he said. He said that there was no controversy on the basis of religion in the country.

The PM said that his govt had been trying to develop every part of Pakistan without any discrimination. He said that the menace of power loadshedding in the country would be under control by the next year.

He said that the under-construction section of motorway between Karachi and Hyderabad would be completed within this year. He said that completion of entire sections of the motorway from Karachi and Lahore would enable people to reach Lahore within a few hours as public would prefer to use their motor vehicles to travel instead of using aeroplanes. He said that construction of motorways would lessen the distances while people in the country would be brought closer to each other.

Earlier, addressing the ceremony, PML-N Sindh chapter leaders Dr Darshan Punchi, Sham Sundar Advani, Kail Das Kohistani, Ismail Rahu and others lauded the efforts of the government for protection of the rights of religious minorities. They said due to prudent policies of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan had achieved milestones of historic progress and prosperity.

Addressing the office-bearers of the PML-N Karachi chapter at the Governor House, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced to include the Karachi Circular Railway Project in China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). He said that construction work on this project would start soon. He said the Karachi Green Line metro bus project and the Lahore-Karachi motorway were also being completed by the federal government.  Discussing the party business, he said the PML-N would contest the next general elections from all over Sindh, including Karachi. During the meeting, members of PML-N, Sindh, informed the PM about the problems and issues of the province, especially Karachi, and also briefed him about the development projects.

Meanwhile, talking to leading businessmen of Karachi, the prime minister said when his government took office in 2013, we were faced with problems including terrorism, economic decline and energy shortages. He said that his government took it as a challenge and worked tirelessly to overcome these problems. “Today, by the grace of Almighty and hard work of our government, Pakistan is on the path of development and prosperity.”

Referring to the law and order situation in Karachi, the PM said there had been a significant improvement in this regard and business activities had returned to normal in the city. Earlier, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah called on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at the Governor House. Matters relating to law and order situation and development projects in the province were discussed. Governor Sindh Muhammad Zubair was also present in the meeting.

The PM stated that as a result of investor-friendly policies of the present government and the economic turnaround achieved in the last four years, various reputable international investors and companies had shown keen interest in exploring business and investment opportunities in Pakistan.

Addressing the leading industrialists and businessmen, the PM said that Pakistan had now achieved macroeconomic stability and was focusing on achieving higher, sustainable and inclusive growth. “GDP was recorded at 4.7% in the financial year 2016, which is an eight year high,” said the PM.

He said that the CPEC with its wide portfolio of projects in energy, road networks, railways and many other sectors offered huge opportunities of investment and employment. Prime Minister Nawaz said that they were also improving the energy mix to ensure availability of clean and affordable energy to the masses.

While referring to investment policies, the PM said that Pakistan had improved its ranking by four points on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business (EODB) Index. “We have identified potential sites along the CPEC routes for establishment of Special Economic Zones that would offer tremendous business opportunities.” The PM stated that the government has introduced new Automotive Development Policy that focused on enhancing competitiveness and provision of quality products.

The meeting was also attended by Sindh Governor Muhammad Zubair, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, Federal Minister Planning, Development and Reforms Ahsan Iqbal, Federal Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique, Chairman Board of Investment Mifta Ismail, parliamentarians and other senior officials.

 

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