Minority Day 11th August
Pakistan observes National Minority Day 11th August every year. It is celebrated to honor and recognize the diverse minorities residing in Pakistan. Celebrating minorities day 11th August develops a sense of harmony among minorities of Pakistan and acknowledges their services in the development of Pakistan. This day is a reminder that Pakistan takes pride in its religious and ethnic diversity. The minorities have the liberty to perform their religious obligations however they want. They are significant to nation-building like any other majority group in Pakistan. Minority day 11th August was officially declared in 2009 based on Quaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s Constituent Assembly’s historic speech on 11th August 1947 where he signifies the role of minorities for nation-building and Pakistan’s development.
“You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the state.”
Minorities’ Rights and Islamic Law
Pakistan is a predominantly Islamic country with a 96% Muslim population. Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, and people from other religions have been residing in Pakistan since its inception. Therefore, Islamic laws and values hold importance to the country. Minorities under the light of Islamic law have always been protected and independent. Islam is the religion of peace and focuses on protecting human rights. Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), who is the biggest role model for Muslims and humanity, has always supported human rights.
The first-ever document for the protection of minorities was the ‘Madina Pact’ which was developed under the guidance of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in 623AC. Similarly, there are many instances where minority rights were protected as per Islamic laws in Arab.
Following are the ways Islam has protected the rights of minorities:
- Islam has always emphasized protecting human rights regardless of gender, race, caste, creed, and religion. Khutba Hujat ul Vida is the biggest example.
- Islam also focuses on the protection of basic rights i.e. safety of life, religion, property, honor, needs, and intellect. These basic rights are equal for Muslims and non-muslims.
- Islam prohibits compulsion in religion that means non-muslims should not be forced to convert to Islam. Every individual has a right to choose their religion and freely observe the rituals and practices.
- Moreover, Islam has always asked Muslims to respect worship places of other religions i.e. churches and temples.
- Financial independence and social security for every citizen.
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Constitution of Pakistan and Minorities
Pakistan as a Muslim state, following Islamic ideology, mainly follows Islamic laws. Therefore, Islamic laws were taken under consideration while making the constitution of Pakistan. ‘Objective Resolution 1949’ while devising ‘Fundamental Rights of Citizens of Pakistan’granted rights to both Muslims and non-muslim citizens of Pakistan. These rights include equality of rights and life, freedom of following religious rituals and practices, right to recruitment for public services, no compulsion of paying taxes of other religions, and no discrimination.
Constitution of Pakistan, 1973 ensures all the rights of minorities are protected by law. Social, economic, and political rights are protected under the constitution.
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Minorities day 11th August is a way to ensure interfaith harmony in a nation that is diverse in its religious and ethnic demographics. Many seminars and conferences are arranged on this day to create awareness in the nation regarding different minorities and their cultures. It is important to talk about the minorities of Pakistan and acknowledge their sacrifices and struggles. This is one way of developing an inclusive Pakistan. Another way would be to include minorities in nation-building through actions like including them in policy-making, laws to protect their rights and identity, secure their jobs, etc.
Pakistan has a 5% reserved quota for minorities in different public services including reserved seats in the senate, national assembly, and provincial assemblies. This ensures the inclusion of minorities in policy-making and delivering their standpoint in making national decisions. Similarly, many government institutes include members from minority groups while recruiting for jobs.
The inclusion of minorities in economic, social, and political areas removes their grievances and gives them a sense of security. It leads to the development of interfaith harmony in the nation.
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Condition of Minorities in Pakistan
Despite having a constitution that protects the rights of minorities equally like majority groups, some areas need attention. In the past, Pakistan has seen the killing of minority communities. Years of war on terror in our neighbor country have affected Pakistan as much as it has affected any other country. It has resulted in a culture of non-tolerance not only towards minorities but towards anyone with different opinions. This indicates the lack in our social unity and values. It encourages the government to make strict laws for the protection of minorities in Pakistan. Moreover, the practical implementation of these laws is equally important.
On the other hand, the government is keen on building temples in Pakistan for the Hindu community. Kartarpur corridor is the biggest investment that connects Gurudwara Darbar Sahib – located in Pakistan – to India. It is a visa-free corridor and holds spiritual importance to the Sikh community of Pakistan and India. However, Pakistanis are not allowed open assess to spiritually important places in India – which calls itself a secular country.
However, recently the growing discrimination against minorities in Pakistan has become a social issue. Therefore, it is important to spread awareness among majority communities in order of their treatment of minorities. Minority day 11th August is a good example to spread needed positivity and awareness in the nation.
Although Pakistan came into being on Islamic ideology, the rights of non-muslim minorities have always been protected. Following the example of Islam and Islamic leaders, it has always been made sure to have an inclusive policy and constitution. Despite all the threats to Muslims in India, Pakistan has never excluded the Hindu community from protection by laws. Observing minority day 11th August is proof of Pakistan’s efforts of solidarity and recognizing its minority communities. Every year since 2009, minority day 11th August is observed with responsibility and respect towards minority communities. More needs to be done by every citizen of the state. It is upon every citizen to take responsibility for protecting the minorities of Pakistan on all occasions not just on minority day 11th August.