Ordinarily, I might have just posted this photograph below as a comment on yesterday’s post on Diwali celebrations in Karachi (also here). But please, just look at the people in this photograph; its way too interesting to be relegated to a comments section.
The occasion is a Diwali celebration at the Islamabad Headquarters of the Pakistan Muslim League, standing (and clapping) extreme left is Syed Mushahid Hussain, Secretary General of the Pakistan Muslim League, next to him is Ijaz ul Haq (Minister of Religious Affairs, and son of Gen. Zia ul Haq), fourth from left is Tariq Azim, State Minister for Information.
The Daily Times (31 October, 2006) provides more details of the event:
Members of the Hindu community from across the country participated in the event where they performed their religious rituals and traditional dances in candlelight to mark the event… A number of office bearers of the party and ministers, including PML Secretary General Mushahid Hussain Syed, Minister for Religious Affairs Ijaz-ul-Haq, State Minister for Information Tariq Azim, Minister for Minorities Affairs Mushtaq Victor and members of the National Assembly (MNAs) Bindara, Donia Aziz, Akram Masih Gill and others were present on the occasion. Officials of the Indian High Commission also participated in the event.
Hussain said that Quaid-e-Azam had envisioned a Pakistan where all the religious minorities enjoyed equal rights. He underlined the importance of inter-faith harmony for the greater prosperity of the nation and announced that the PML would also celebrate the birthday of Baba Gurunanak next week. He said that the minorities played a vital role in building any nation. He said that the present government was allocating high importance to giving all minoritiesÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ equal. Hindus are playing a leading role in countryÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s economic development and the present government will leave no stone unturned to ensure their safety and well being, he added.
This is, of course, a political gesture – some might even say a gimmick. But if so, let us have more such gestures and gimmicks. They will, in time, hopefully help change our perceptions and treatment of religious minorities in Pakistan.