It is on top of the Punjab government’s agenda to create an environment of peace, harmony and acceptance for all so that people can feel safe and contribute to their collective growth and wellbeing with full dedication. It is also important to take them on board and give them a sense of ownership, regardless of class, creed, caste and religion, to make the province an ideal home for them.
This was stated by Punjab Minister for Human Rights, Minorities Affairs and Interfaith Harmony, Ejaz Alam Augustine during a pre-consultation session held at Ministers’ Block, Punjab Civil Secretariat. The session had been organized jointly by the ministry and the Youth Development Foundation (YDF) to seek policy recommendations under the project titled “Harmonious, Tolerant, and Safe Punjab for Everyone”.
The project aims at formulation of a comprehensive policy document for the ministry with input from different stakeholders on how to promote feelings of equality, harmony, peace and tolerance in the province. The above-mentioned pre-consultation session was the last of the four organized to identify the problem areas, mull solutions and set direction of the project before its official launch due this week. A launching ceremony of the project is planned on January 11, 2020.
On this occasion, Shahid Rehmat, Executive Director, YDF, gave a brief introduction of the project to the audience and explained its background. He shared it with them that the federal government had devolved Ministry of Interfaith Harmony to provincial administrative units in April 2019 and till date Punjab government had not yet come up with any concrete policy/guidelines for the newly devolved ministry.
To help the government in this respect, Shahid said, the draft recommendations based on consultations under the project will be presented to the members of the Multi Party Working Group (PWG) and Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights, Minorities Affairs and Interfaith Harmony. The objective, Shahid said, will be to build a stronger case for the ministry to advocate for its adoption by the Punjab government.
Mubasher Bukhari, Policy Consultant of the project, said the beauty of the whole exercise was that it was highly inclusive and based on diverse perspectives which were imperative to address the core issues that existed on ground. He said the pre-consultations were highly productive where participants belonging to diverse backgrounds discussed contentious issues in a cordial environment with a problem-solving approach.
The pre-consultation sessions were attended by religious scholars from different faiths and sects, representatives of civil society, youth, officials of Punjab human rights ministry and others.
The pre-consultation sessions were helpful in devising a set of policy recommendations which were shared with the audience. To mention a few, there were suggestions to fix a certain employment criterion for clerics serving communities in mosques and seminaries situated in remote areas, remove lacunae in the curriculum that stand in the way of interfaith harmony, make the heroic role of all Pakistanis irrespective of faith or believes part of the curriculum, introduce a law barring people to name mosques after sects and invite lawyers and bureaucrats to join consultation sessions under the project.