–PM’s aide assures action against forced conversion and marriages of girls belonging to minority communities
–NCCP president says Pakistan lacking in promoting interfaith harmony in Middle East
LAHORE: The government has taken notice of the incidents of forced conversions and marriages of underage girls belonging to the minority communities and will investigate these cases, a key aide of Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Sunday.
Addressing a press conference after a reception at the Saint Anthony’s College, PM’s Special Representative on Religious Harmony and Middle East Relations Hafiz Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi said that Islam has strictly forbidden forced conversions and the government will make all efforts to address the concerns of its non-Muslim citizens in this regard.
The ceremony was attended by National Council of Churches in Pakistan (NCCP) President Bishop Azad Marshall, Catholic Archbishop of Lahore Sebastian Shaw, Father James Chunan, Pastor Shahid Maharaj, Sardar Sikandar Singh, Dr Munawar Chand Bhagat, Laal Khokhar and Muslim clerics Syed Ziaullah Shah Bukhari, Maulana Shafi Qasmi, Maulana Asadullah Farooq, Maulana Zubair Abid, Abdul Qayyum Farooqi and Dr Sohail Ahmed Raza.
Commenting on the recent killing of members of the Ahmadiyya faith in Peshawar and Nankana Sahib, Ashrafi said that the Constitution of Pakistan has assured rights for minorities living in Pakistan, adding that no individual, group or organization would be allowed to impose their will on other segments of society.
Ashrafi said that contrary to other parts of the world, the situation of religious harmony is much better in Pakistan. Citing example of India, he said that Hindu mobs had torched 200 churches and burnt 50 pastors alive whereas Muslims were also being subjected to violence.
Speaking on the the issue of publication of blasphemous caricatures in France, Ashrafi said that the Pakistani government is making global efforts to ensure legislation against Islamophobia and to protect the sanctity of sacred places and all religions.
He said that freedom of expression does not mean undermining the sanctity of the divine scriptures and religions.
Speaking on the occasion, NCCP President Bishop Azad Marshall appreciated Ashrafi’s support on the issue of forced conversion and marriages of underage girls belonging to the non-Muslim communities and expressed the hope that the PM’s aide would use his influence in the government and religious circles to resolve this crucial matter.
He termed Ashrafi’s appointment as PM’s special representative on religious harmony a good omen for minorities in Pakistan. He said that the minorities hoped that Ashrafi will play the role of a bridge between Muslims and non-Muslim communities of Pakistan.
Commenting on Ashrafi’s remarks that he was also serving as the PM’s aide on Middle East relations, Bishop Marshall said that as head of the churches in the Middle East region, he had found Pakistani involvement lacking in promotion of interfaith relations there.
“Hafiz Ashrafi is a vocal supporter of interfaith harmony in Pakistan and we would like to see him play his due role in fomenting religious harmony in the Middle East as well,” he said.