In an extremely polarized society like Pakistan, there is a need to promote peace and interfaith harmony amongst the masses. The message can be better disseminated through media and that’s why Pakistan's Minister of State for National Harmony Akram Masih Gill announced on Wednesday to open a state-run television channel with the sole purpose of spreading the message of peace and love throughout the country. Indeed, it is a great step. Currently, the volatile country is faced with extremism and terrorism, as Taliban and al-Qaeda-linked militant outfits have spread their tentacles across the country.
The minister of state divulged the information while addressing a ‘Peace Conference’ at the National Press Club in Islamabad. The conference was organized by the National Commission for Interfaith Harmony and Human Rights Pakistan (NCIHP). It may be pertinent to mention here that rising extremism in Pakistan has virtually made lives of minorities miserable. The Ahmadiyya community is continuously being persecuted for their faith, despite the fact that the Pakistani constitution guarantees the same rights for them. It should be noted that Pakistan declared them a religious minority in September 1974.
Even Shiites, which are a Muslim minority in the country, are not safe. Hardly a single day passes without the news of Shiites being killed in the violence-wracked Baluchistan, Karachi and other cities of Pakistan. Christians are the largest non-Muslim minority in Pakistan, and they also have a miserable life. They are not provided with equal opportunities in education, health and basic needs of life. The only minority minister in Pakistan’s federal cabinet, Shahbaz Bhatti, was shot dead by some unidentified gunmen in March last year for speaking against controversial blasphemous laws. It has been more than a-year-and-half since the murder took place, but the country’s hyperactive security agencies have yet to trace killers of Bhatti, let alone bringing them to justice.
Hindus, majority of whom is concentrated in rural Sindh, have also been facing multitude of problems. Young girls of the community are picked up by bigots and religious clerics, converted to Islam and married to young Muslims. Tens of thousands of influential Hindus have migrated to the neighboring India for a better life, while the poor ones are still at the mercy of bigots and extremists. The state has virtually bowed down before the fanatics and does not initiate any action against them fearing a backlash from the community.
Worship places of minorities are also not safe. Religious fanatics have attacked the worship places of Ahmadis in Lahore and recently minarets of an Ahmadi worship place in Kharian – a garrison city – was demolished under the supervision of local authorities. At the time of despair, it is heartening to know from the state minister that Pakistani government intends to launch a television channel to promote peace, love and interfaith harmony among the masses.