Pakistan should allow liberal thoughts to flourish in the interest of its own stability, panelists said at a symposium here Saturday and suggested that the government of the neighbouring country should do more to ensure that minorities living there feel safe.
Speaking on "The Plight of Religious Minorities in Pakistan," the panelists including religious leaders and social activists, said that people indulging in violence against other communities were not true followers of their own religion.
Former Delhi Lt. Governor Vijai Kapoor said Pakistan has not yet found a modus vivendi to come to terms with its pluralism.
He said distortions had been brought about in the constitution of Pakistan though Mohammad Ali Jinah had spoken about co-existence of religions.
Kapoor said religious minorities are being cleansed in Pakistan and it would be in the interest of neighbouring countries to allow liberal thoughts to flourish.
Vivek Goyal, Advocate, Supreme Court of India, said Pakistan was a signatory to the international convention on civil and political rights and universal declaration of human rights that provide protection to minorities but people from minority communities had faced a number of violent attacks.
He said the population of Hindus in Pakistan had gone down sizeably over the past six decades.
M.M. Verma, an academic, said the Koran teaches that other scriptures should be respected and a sizeable section of the majority community in Pakistan believed in mutual brotherhood.
"But there are anti-social elements," he said.
He said a reason for fear among minorities was the government's inability to provide them adequate protection.
Ravindra Nagar, chief acharya (priest) of Birla Mandir, said special care should be taken of minorities in all the countries.
Adish Agarwalla, president, International Council of Jurists, said there was no dispute that minorities were facing problems in Pakistan but it was a small section of extremists that was creating problems.
He said there had been conversions among minorities to Islam to protect the honour of girls.
Syed Babar Ashraf, general secretary, All India Ulema and Mashaikh Board, said Islam does not teach hate.
"A Muslim is a person in whose hand the entire humanity is safe," he said.
Ashraf said that the Sufi tradition had a great influence in the spread of Islam in the Indian subcontinent but its message of harmony was sought to be distorted.
He said foreign money was being used to radicalize Islam by spreading views of a particular sect.
Social activist Joseph Gathia said that false complaints were being made under blasphemy law in Pakistan by people who were eyeing the property of minorities.
"Minorities are living in fear. They cannot speak. There is systemic discrimination. Infant mortality rate among minorities is high as pregnant women find it difficult to get admission in hospitals. It is not easy for children to get admission in schools and they are given low grades deliberately," he said.
Gathia, however, said there is a growing feeling among a section of Pakistan's population that blasphemy laws were wrong.
A.K. Merchant, National Trustee, Lotus Temple, said systems of governance in the world were inadequate to meet the challenges posed by insanity of violence and a profound transition was necessary.
K.G. Suresh, Director, Global Foundation of Civilisation Harmony (India) said that being tolerant was not sufficient and the need was for accepting and celebrating diversity of human civilsation.