Tuesday January 18, 2022

Goodbye 2021

December 31, 2021

If 2020 was termed the year of unimaginable losses as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, then 2021 must be considered a year of hope, during which the process of defeating this insidious virus began to gain momentum.

Life has gradually been restored with precautionary measures. Not only have vaccines against the coronavirus been manufactured but also a large population of the world has been successfully vaccinated. However, the new Covid variant Omicron is still a major threat to precious lives around the world, including Pakistan.

Every year on the eve of the new year, I try to figure out what we lost and what we gained during last year. No doubt, the year 2021 caused irreparable loss and great sorrow for the Vankwani family when in April our dear elder brother Dr Prem Kumar Vankwani left us at the age of 57.

The Vankwani family has initiated a grand welfare project called Prem Nagar at our native town Islamkot, Tharparkar in the loving memory of Dr Prem Kumar. We have purchased 110 acres of land at our own expense to establish a world class old-aged home, centre for disabled persons and schools for children. We will ensure that every human being will be eligible to get relief regardless of his/her religious affiliation. The initial groundbreaking was already performed by our beloved mother. Hopefully, we will be able to work according to the master plan by February next year.

Facilitating someone deserving to raise a family is the best deed in the world, which results in pleasing God Almighty. On January 9, 2022, the Pakistan Hindu Council will organise its 15th annual combined marriages ceremony. During this long period, hundreds of couples have tied knots in a memorable way.

The end of the year 2020 caused great sorrow and grief for the patriotic Pakistani Hindu community when on December 30 (2020), the Samadhi (shrine) of Shri Param Hansji Maharaj, a God-loving Hindu saint, was attacked by a mob of miscreants in the Karak district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. On the very next day, I had an emergency meeting with Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed, who was very kind to take notice of the unfortunate incident. Due to his clear orders, the Samadhi along with Teri temple was restored in a record time period. He also won the hearts of the minority community by attending the Diwali celebrations as chief guest. Then, a delegation of international pilgrims, belonging to the US, Europe, Australia, India, Singapore and other countries, landed at Peshawar Airport in November this year to visit the Samadhi and returned from Pakistan with good memories.

An important agreement has also been signed between the Pakistan Hindu Council and Pakistan Airlines for the promotion of faith tourism on a regular basis. The national flag carrier, in order to facilitate followers of Shri Param Hans ji Maharaj, will start special flights towards Peshawar by January 1, 2022. Similarly, special flights from other international cities including New Delhi, Calcutta and Mumbai to facilitate pilgrims from other parts of the world would also be started in the next phase.

Keeping the religious significance of Katas Raj Temple Chakwal, Jain Temple Lahore, Gandhara civilization Taxila and other religiously significant historical sites, I believe that the year 2022 will prove to be a year of further achievements in promoting religious tourism in Pakistan.

On the international front, the biggest news of the year was the withdrawal of the superpower America from Afghanistan and the return of the Taliban to Kabul. Apparently, our Afghan policy is still not clear. We need to adopt a wise and careful approach in this regard, putting our national interest first.

On the occasion of the eve of the New Year, let’s pray that the year 2022 will be a year of progress and prosperity for Pakistan. We must play our due role in building a society based on compassion, brotherhood and tolerance while ensuring respect for all religions.

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

He tweets @RVankwani