Prof Dr. Syed Akbar Abbas, Chairman & Chief Ambassador (NPCIH) Pakistan in a conference to reform the said committee with Prof. Ahsan Iqbal, Federal Minister, in Ministry of Production, Development and Reforms, Islamabad .

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Report on the Round Table Conference on Inter- Faith Harmony held at the Ministry of Planning Development and Reforms on the 22nd of April, 2014. The Ministry of Planning, Development and Reforms conducted a roundtable on Inter-faith harmony on the 22nd of April, 2014 organized by the Ministry’s Young Development Fellows (YDF’s). The event was the first in a series of roundtables that will be organized within the Ministry over the next few months. The event was an attempt by the Ministry to stimulate Inter-faith dialogue and to ensure the peaceful co-existence of many faiths and to promote a culture of peace and non-violence which will eventually allow Pakistan to move towards an era of development.
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The roundtable was highly successful in that it was able to bring together a diverse group of individuals. There were religious scholars representing Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism and Christianity, along with representatives from academia, members of National Assembly, social activists and government officials at the conference. Participants included Prof. Ahsan Iqbal, Dr. Anis Ahmed, Dr. Asad Zaman(Vice Chancellor PIDE), Dr (Rev). Irfan Jamil (the Bishop of Lahore), MPA Ramesh Singh Arora,MNA Isphanyar Bhandara, Dr. Syed Akbar Abbas, Chairman (NPCIH), Jibran Nasir (Pakistan for All), Dr. Amineh Hoti (The Center for Dialogue and Action, FC College Lahore), Neelofar Siddiqui, Sahibzada Asim Maharvi Chishti , Pundit Channa Lal, Harun Khalid (Author of A White Trail), Maulana Misbah Ur Rehman Yousafi (Mufti, Faisal Mosque Islamabad), Young Development Fellows and other members of the Planning Commission.
The inclusion of such a diverse group of individuals ensured better representation of the issues faced by the religious minorities and in some cases even the majority. Sadly, Pakistan has seen a rise in religious extremism and violence and these pose a great threat to peace and stability in our society. The participants discussed the current issues that religious minorities face in Pakistan and discussed some of the potential solutions that could be used to tackle the issue of intolerance in our country.
Issues Hindering Interfaith Harmony in Pakistan.
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There were some key issues that were raised during the conference and some themes that were repeated by all who were present. It is important to identify the key issues that people felt were needed to be addressed and discussed not only on this forum but on a national level, as well. There were concerns raised about the lack of respect for other religions and cultures within society.
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The Minister for Planning, Development and Reform, Ahsan Iqbal pointed out that there is a prevalence of prejudice and lack of respect for other religions and cultures. It is this idea and the thought that one is better than the other which has created a sense of apathy and friction within society. There was also a realization that it is mainly the responsibility of the majority population – the Muslims, to look after and safeguard the interests of the minority that is living in Pakistan. There was a realization amongst all who attended that without ensuring the rights of every Pakistani irrespective of religious differences we cannot eliminate this behemoth of an issue. This was a point that was agreed upon by all who were present.
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Chairman of the National Peace Committee for Interfaith Harmony (NPCIH), Dr. Syed Akbar Abbas pointed out that there is already a body that is working for the promotion of interfaith harmony. However, at the present moment it is not effective since there is a lack of interest to promote this organization and to implement the proposals that they have recommended. It was pointed out that after the 18th amendment it was the interest of the provinces to implement and pursue ideas that can reduce intolerance and promote interfaith harmony within the society.

The next issue which was widely discussed and highlighted by Jibran Nasir, Ramesh Singh, the Bishop of Lahore, Pundit ChannaLal and Sahibzada Asim Maharvi Chisti was the school curriculum that is being taught to children across Pakistan. There is a strong element of discrimination which an average student in Pakistan is exposed to from a very early age. Prevalent curriculum and text books highlight the superiority of one religion over the other and openly malign the minority religions. This reinforces the already promoted notions of religious discrimination that have become prevalent in society. Jibran Nasir also highlighted the plight of the Ahmedi community within Pakistan and called attention to the forced conversions of Hindus in Sindh.
A major issue that was also raised was the quality of the madrassahs and the clerics who teach in those institutions. It was highlighted and agreed upon by everyone present that the emotional and intellectual level of an average cleric is sub-par and highly damaging for the future development of our young. These individuals have no formal training and are not certified by any committee or institution to have the necessary skills to teach.

Suggested Solutions for achieving Interfaith Harmony:
Prof. Ahsan Iqbal stated that prejudices in our society will help our enemies in their conspiracy to destabilize Pakistan. The Minister recommended having a round table organized quarterly to promote social solidarity in Pakistan. Examples of Middle Age Spain and present day Indonesia were quoted as examples of societies that we should try to emulate. The importance of keeping channels between all kinds of people and faiths open so that all religions, all ethnic groups, all castes and creeds of people are recognized as full citizens of this country with something
important to contribute to the beauty and diversity of the society to which we all belong was stressed upon.
Panellists suggested reforming the current primary school curriculum in Pakistan by including various activities and projects to connect students with international community – this will also help students develop an attitude of accepting and respecting other faiths. A suggestion was also made to incorporate topics on character building and intercultural coexistence in our school curriculum. In order to improve the knowledge of various religions and the study of commonalities between different religions, study of comparative religions also suggested. This was refuted by some participants who felt that the role of state needs to be re-examined as its responsibility should be to only teach morality and not religion.
A very popular recommendation put forward by many of the participants was the need to establish a system which provides licenses and certifications to clerics who teach in Madrassahs across Pakistan. It was pointed out that these licenses should not only certify a cleric’s knowledge of his subject but should also ensure that these individuals understand the rights of all citizens of Pakistan be they Muslim or non-Muslim. These clerics must be tolerant individuals, must accept other minorities and at no cost should they be allowed to promote hate speech in their local areas. Asim Maharvi Chisti suggested that call centers should be established to report ‘hate’ crimes at the district level where people can anonymously call to report any kind of hate speech but these call centers must be subject to intense scrutiny and checks to ensure that they do not misuse their powers.

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Also geographic locations which are prone to more interfaith issues should be identified through surveys and census. Many participants felt that the media exacerbated the marginalization of minorities by depicting a misleading image of the problems faced by them in Pakistan. The role of PEMRA was discussed and the need for it to reform its policy for monitoring and regulating TV content of sensitive, misleading and derogatory content relating to our minorities was also discussed.

There was consensus among the speakers that a National Committee on Interfaith Harmony should be attached to the Planning Commission as it had taken the proactive step of bringing together various stakeholders for promoting tolerance and harmony. It was also proposed that district level interfaith committees be formed in rural areas, because there is a strong link between poverty and interfaith conflicts in under-privileged areas. The religious right must also be engaged and invited to take part in these committees, in order to clear misconceptions and to promote peace and harmony amongst our diverse population. It was felt that the real problem is not about empowerment and equality of minorities but rather lies in the mindset of those who are in a majority in Pakistan and in their failure to accept minorities at an equal level.

Many members representing the minorities of Pakistan expressed how above all they were Pakistani first and were committed to this country just as much as anyone else. It was highlighted that the presence of Christianity in Pakistan dates to the 1st century (St. Thomas in Taxila) so the
association of the Christians of this part of the world with the ‘West’ or of the Hindus with India, hurt the sentiments of many people who are just as Pakistani as anyone else.
A global Interfaith Harmony week is now celebrated in the world and a suggestion was made that Pakistan must join the celebration of this week and declare an Interfaith harmony day in October. Dr. Amineh Hoti suggested publication of a monthly/quarterly Interfaith Journal to promote the cause of interfaith harmony and to increase awareness.

Dr Asad Zaman concluded the conference by highlighting three main points which will go a long way in strengthening the very foundation of interfaith harmony at the grass root levels in Pakistan. He said that our foremost priority should be our school curriculum and how we must ensure that it promotes peace and brotherhood among st our children. An inclusive approach must be adopted to reform the education system along with training of teachers because without good teachers good syllabus cannot be taught. Lastly, he highlighted how it is the responsibility of the parents to teach their children how to be tolerant citizens and the crucial role family upbringing plays in shaping the behavior and attitudes of individuals. He argued that if we are able to address the issues and implement the recommendations presented by the panelists then we will definitely pave the way for stability and development in Pakistan, as a harmonious and tolerant social fabric will act as a catalyst for development.

Organizing Committee, Interfaith Harmony,
Ministry of Planning Development and Reforms,
Government of Pakistan.

District / Tehsil Chairman of the (NPCIH) in all the Provinces are now informed that according to our new policy (in result of suggestions in the latest Interfaith Harmony Conference held under the Reformation head by Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reform, Prof. Ahsan Iqbal) it has been decided in NPCIH Executive Committee meeting held today that all the designated Chairman should report to the Head office on our Chairman’s Cell No 0232-5744134 directly for new directions and their re-nomination / registration in NPCIH.

All previous registrations / nominations will be considered as cancelled with immediate effect and their names will be re-designated according to their education and abilities to run the said committees in their area under the new reformed policy of NPCIH.

All offices should run a “Complaint Cell” and a visible display will be arranged under the supervision of the said Tehsil / District Chairman. All the complaints must be recorded in the said office and a copy of that complaint will be sent to the Head Office and the concerned Provincial office of NPCIH.

The complaints like religious hatreds, use of speakers for the said purpose, or any kind of blaspheme against the holy books like Qur’an, Bible or any other religious books of other religions will be reported accordingly. The real evidence must be taken in custody or the names of the said person / any witness statement / document of the said incident, etc, must be forwarded immediately. So that an action against the such person may be recommended and perused by the Central or Provincial Committees immediately / effectively. Any District / Tehsil Chairman of NPCIH fails to establish such “Complaint Cell” will not be considered for the said post.

We know that all the members of NPCIH are the valued persons and the main source of our net work. They are highly respected ones for us, as they are working purely on voluntarily basis and truly we all are united to maintain the real spirit of interfaith harmony. Now to reform it, we have decided to make a policy to arrange a little finance through our own self finance basis “To Help Ourselves” through Registration /Membership / self monthly contribution. Therefore, every chairman may utilize some finance from it to run their “Complaint Cell” and could meet with it’s day by day expenses.

Moreover, every District / Tehsil office must hold a monthly meeting on 19th of every month to have a mutual understanding and develop / reform the said committee.

All kinds of suggestions may also be sent to the Chairman (NPCIH) Prof Dr S.A Abbas directly through E’mail for prompt consideration.

Saleem Raza
Sr. Coordinator,
on behalf of
National Peace Committee for Interfaith & Harmony (NPCIH),

The World Peace Religion “Monotheism Hebrew” is the only solution for interfaith harmony, peace and tolerance. The time has come now for every Church, Mosque and Synagogue that make it “The House of Peace” for every human being. This is the only way for life on earth to survive becoming a “Shudai”/ a Mono and hold the key of Love to open the door of global Peace. Our Chairman and Ambassador of peace Prof Dr. Syed Akbar Abbas said in his message forwarded to all the following groups / Ambassador’s of Peace and Interfaith Harmony.

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Ahsan Iqbal addresses Interfaith Conference
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ISLAMABAD, Apr 22 : Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reform, Prof. Ahsan Iqbal here on Tuesday said that promoting peace and harmony is an important part of our Pakistan Vision 2025 because economic development is not possible without social solidarity. He said that Intolerance and Prejudice in our society will help our enemies in their conspiracy to destabilize Pakistan. Addressing the `Interfaith Harmony Conference’ organized by Young Development Fellows, Ahsan Iqbal said that prejudices based on religion, language, color, cast and creed are the enemies of rational thinking and tolerance, which supplement extremism and radicalization in a society. He was addressing in roundtable conference held in his Federal Ministry.

He added that it is the beauty of our religion that it forbids us from any king of prejudice and discrimination while stressing upon greater religious freedom. The Minister said that Quaid-i-Azam, time and again reiterated that every Pakistani citizen will have same level of freedom irrespective of his religious believe. He said that the government to focus on social development, including health, education, and availability of drinking water, sewerage and environment sectors. He expressed that the priority of the government is to bring peace and harmony in the country by promoting tolerance and acceptance of pluralistic society. “Our goal is to make development inclusive”, he added.

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The Conference was an attempt to stimulate interfaith dialogue for enabling peaceful co existence a reality by identifying issues hindering interfaith harmony and finding pragmatic solution to remove those hindrances.
Prof Dr. Syed Akbar Abbas, being Chairman (NPCIH) stated that there is a need of religious “comparative study” through our Tehsil committee’s and the suggested complaint Cells can also be organized in grass route level in these sub committees. He also added in his suggestions that there is small group of a minority school of thought involved in terrorism and there is no clash in Sunni or Shia school of thought in Pakistan. We are living here from pre-partition of Pakistan peacefully. The terrorist group is against the Sunni and Shia holy shrines and we all Sunni and Shia recognizance them. The government should reform these committees and through comparative study we can provide them the said knowledge which have the only solution to change the said thought from these illiterate and rigid school of thought, a so called Sunni Muslim (The Terrorists).

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The conference was attended by Dr. Asad Zaman vice Chancellor PIDE, Dr. Anis vice Chancellor Rifah University, Prof Dr. Syed Akbar Abbas Chairman, National Peace Committee for Interfaith Harmony (NPCIH), Dr (Rev) Jamil, Bishop of Lahore, Dr. Amna Educationalist from Lahore, Mr. Remaish Singh MPA, Chan Laal a Hindu community representative, Nilofer Siddiqi and noted scholars of different religions and believes from all over Pakistan.

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National Peace Award Ceremony in Lahore.

National Peace Award Ceremony in Lahore.

Prof Dr Syed Akbar Abbas Senior Journalist and Mufasir-e-Qur’an and Sahaif Awla has been nominated and designated as Chairman (NPCIH) with immediate effect after the approval as requested and forwarded by the Executive Committee.

All the relevant section / department may note and update the said information for their official record.

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Prof. Ahsan Iqbal
Government of Pakistan
Ministry of Planning, Development
and Reform Planning Commission, Islamabad.
April 14, 2014

Subject: Roundtable Conference on Interfaith Harmony

Dear Prof Dr Syed Akbar Abbas,

The Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform is planning to host a “Roundtable Conference on Interfaith Harmony” on April 22, 2014. This event aims to create a culture of constructive dialogue between different stakeholders in order to achieve interfaith harmony in Pakistan.

Pakistan has seen a rise in attacks targeting minority groups and sectarianism is on the rise. Targets in Pakistan include the Sunni majority, Shia ,and the small Ahmadi, Hindu and Christian religious groups. According to the human rights group Human Rights Watch, in 2011 and 2012, Pakistan minority groups Shia, Ahmadi, and Christians “faced unprecedented insecurity and persecution in the country”. Attacks on Sunni Sufi shrines have also occurred. These pose a great threat to peace and stability in our society and we must devise a strategy which promotes more understanding and tolerance amongst our diverse population.
The objectives of the Roundtable are:

1. Identification of issues hindering interfaith harmony in Pakistan.
2. To reach a consensus on reversing these hindrances and promoting a more inclusive religious culture.
3. Pragmatic solutions for achieving interfaith harmony.

It is my pleasure to invite you to this event. I am hopeful that by being a part of this event, you will contribute positively towards our goals.

Prof. Ahsan Iqbal
Ministry of Planning Development & Reform

Schedule of Roundtable on Interfaith Harmony, April 22nd, 2014
0930 – 1000 Opening Session Chief Guest: Prof. Ahsan Iqbal’s address
1030 – 1100 Session I Overview of current situation in Pakistan
1100 – 1200 Session II Panel discussion on Identification of issues hindering interfaith harmony in Pakistan( Prof. Ahsan Iqbal will moderate the session)
1200 – 1230 Session III Pragmatic Decisions on Way Forward. (Potential Solutions for achieving Interfaith Harmony)
1230 – 1300 Session IV Questions and Answers

Key Questions:
1. What is the current state of interfaith harmony in Pakistan?
2. What are experiences of different countries and regions where heterogeneous societies have thrived?
3. How can such practices be inculcated into Pakistani society?

Key Talking Points:
Sectarian Rifts: Pakistan is home to multifaceted and heterogeneous faiths, and largely constituted of a Muslim majority. 96.28% are Muslims, 0.22% are Ahmedis, 1.60% are Hindus, 1.59% are Christian, 0.25% are Schedule castes, 0.07% are people of other minorities including the Parsi, Buddhist and Sikh communities. Within the Muslim majority, a large proportion of the population is of the Sunni faith, while the rest are Shia. While it would be simple to classify the Muslim population as Shia or Sunni, it is not a simple and straight forward matter. Both faiths house a number of different sectarian ideologies due to which there are intrinsic rifts in theological perspective and practice. How do we then maintain peace in such a diverse society and how do we inculcate tolerance in the masses towards each other’s faiths?

Exclusion of Minorities: Another pertinent issue that leads to feelings of animosity and ill-will within religious groupings, as well as towards the state is that people feel that the government is often acting as the voice of particular and specific religious ideologies. By the indulgence of specific religious elements in the running of the country, whilst excluding other sects/religions, the governmental viewpoint often is representative of the majority, and not other strains of religious thought. This majority viewpoint is also reflected in the curricula at the junior and high school level, where there is no concept of comparative religion. Gradual Islamization of the country has been an offshoot of this; however, this version of Islam is one that may not be representative of all segments of even Islam itself. Secondly, often, Islam is used by various political groupings to achieve their own narrow goals and power grabbing measures.

abdullah abdullahPreliminary and partial official results from Afghanistan’s April 5 presidential election show a close contest between opposition politician Abdullah Abdullah. The Afghan Independent Election Commission has counted more than 500,000 votes of the seven million ballots cast. The early figures put Abdullah Abdullah in the lead with nearly 42.9 percent of the votes counted. Announcing the details at a news conference Sunday in Kabul, Commission Chairman Ahmad Yousuf Nuristani cautioned this is not the final result and the frontrunner could change.

Afghan officials also acknowledge that recorded incidents of serious fraud have exceeded figures for the 2009 presidential election when more than a million votes were canceled. Nuristani says his commission is determined to address the issue. He said there is no doubt fraud has taken place in many parts and the Independent Election commission is firmly committed to resolve the issue within its authority and present only those results that are free of fraud. Nuristani vowed to do so in a transparent and open manner in the presence of media, election observers and representatives of the candidates. He emphasized the primary job of investigating irregularities and fraudulent votes lies with the country’s Independent Election Complaints Commission.

There could be a runoff election between Abdullah and Ghani if neither gains more than 50 percent of the vote when the final results are announced on May 14. The initial results show a third candidate running with the support of President Hamid Karzai’s brothers – Zalmai Rassoul – trails far behind with nearly 10 percent of the votes counted. Speaking to reporters, presidential candidate Ghani said the lead Abdullah has at this stage is not significant.

“We are in a hundred minute (football) game and we have only down with ten minutes,” Ghani said. “So, as Chairman Nuristani said the results will change every day, every two days, three days.”

The international community is praising the high turnout of an estimated 60 percent of the 12 million eligible Afghan voters in the April 5 balloting, there are fears the evidence of widespread fraud could undermine the legitimacy of the election seen crucial for Afghanistan’s future stability. The winning candidate will replace President Hamid Karzai who has been leading the country for more than 12 years and could not run again because of constitutional limits. The political transition will be the first democratic transfer of power in war-ravaged Afghanistan.

Abdullah Abdullah was already against Pakistan in the past and falsely blaming against Pakistan developing terrorism in Afghanistan rather than accepting the truth that Afghan Taliban’s are the major terrorists developing terrorism inside the Afghanistan and in Pakistan as well. His coming as President will not be a good news for Pakistan and Terrorism will increase more and more in Pakistan in future.
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