Will fight religious apartheid in Pak: Zardari

Islamabad: President Asif Ali Zardari said on Wednesday that Diwali should be an occasion to promote interfaith harmony to "fight religious apartheid and those who seek to impose their ideological agenda on the people" of Pakistan.

In a special message on the occasion of the festival of lights that celebrates the triumph of good over evil, Zardari said the Hindus, Scheduled Castes and all minority communities of Pakistan are "equal citizens of the state and entitled to equal rights". "We partake in Diwali celebrations also for promoting interfaith harmony as a means to fight religious apartheid and those who seek to impose their ideological agenda on the people," said Zardari, the chief of the ruling PPP.
"Let it be made clear yet again today that no one will be allowed to victimise and hound members of minority communities in the name of religion and faith," he added.

The festival of lights was a "time for celebration, but it is also a time for reflection", Zardari said. "Let us rededicate ourselves to continually striving in the path of good and noble. Let us also remember that there are always others less fortunate than us," he added.

Zardari noted that the Hindu community had decided to observe Diwali with simplicity this year in view of the death of former First Lady Begum Nusrat Bhutto and the damage caused by floods in Pakistan, particularly in Sindh province. The celebrations should "serve to remind that we need to help those in need of help", he said.

The President reiterated his government`s commitment to uphold the UN Resolution calling for interfaith harmony and pledges made by PPP to safeguard the rights of all minorities in accordance with the teachings of Pakistan`s founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah and PPP founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

Diwali was celebrated in many parts of Pakistan, particularly in Sindh, which has a sizeable Hindu population. Hindus lit lamps outside their homes and offered prayers at temples in cities like Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi. Among Hindus in Sindh, preparations for Diwali in some areas began a month ago.

In Karachi and Hyderabad, pundits and devotees held prayers sessions and prayed for the integrity and solidarity of Pakistan. In some cities of Sindh like Mithi, Hindus observed Diwali in a simple manner due to the recent death of Begum Nusrat Bhutto, the widow of former President Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.

Paul Bhatti, the Advisor to the Prime Minister on National Harmony, greeted Hindus on Diwali, saying the festival of lights strengthened the resolve of minorities to follow true ethical values.
"May the festival of lights dispel darkness and gloom and bring joy, happiness and prosperity to the people of our country," he said.

Several political leaders, including Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, too greeted the Hindus. In a message, he said all the people living in Pakistan have equal rights and are citizens of the same motherland.

The minorities played a vital role in the development and prosperity of the country and the PML-N party will continue protecting their rights, he said.