Sardar Mohammad Yousaf
ISLAMABAD: Despite opposition from religious parties, the government is devising a plan to introduce a common code of conduct to counter the existing differences among various religious sects in order to encourage greater religious harmony.
The widely debated and proposed reforms to the educational system of madrassas in the country are also on the cards. These reforms are part of the country’s first ever National Internal Security Policy.
Federal Minister for Religious Affairs and Inter-faith Harmony Sardar Mohammad Yousaf met the leaders of the Ittehad of Tanzeem-e-Madaris Pakistan on March 4 and discussed the registration of madrassas, reworking their syllabi and integrating them into the mainstream.
Recently, Sardar Yousaf met the ulema of all Muslim sects in Karachi, Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar and Quetta to discuss sectarian issues and ask them to abide by a common code of conduct.
Speaking on the floor of the National Assembly, chief of the Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam Fazl (JUI-F) Maulana Fazlur Rehman opposed the proposed reform of madrassas. Another member of the JUI-F said that faulty policies and not the ulema were responsible for the present state of affairs.
A written reply from the religious affairs ministry elaborated on efforts to encourage interfaith harmony, including an allocation of five percent for religious minorities in all federal government services, in addition to open merit, with effect from May 2009.
In 2009, the ministry declared August 11 ‘minorities day’; four seats in the Senate are reserved for religious minorities under the 18th Amendment as of 2010; as of September 2011, Christians will be referred to as ‘Masihi’ and not ‘Essahi’; the free and fair celebration of religious festivals of minorities at the official level has also been ensured; the National Commission for Minorities has been reconstituted as of July 2013.
Additionally, a national conference on inter-faith harmony, ‘Living Together with Diversity: Interfaith and Intercultural Dialogue’, was convened in February 2013 in Islamabad and another conference is being scheduled this year.
The ministry’s reply stated that those affected by the attack on Lahore’s Joseph Colony in March 2013 were financially compensated - 109 people were provided with Rs500,000 each on March 15 and April 24. The Minorities Welfare Fund has been utilised to provide financial assistance, scholarships and funds for the execution of small development schemes for the repair and maintenance of places of worship.
The rate of financial assistance for minorities was also increased from Rs5000 to Rs10,000 and a grant of Rs50,000 is provided for the marriages of orphans or children of widows in the minority community, according to the ministry’s reply. INTERNEWS