ISLAMABAD - President Asif Ali Zardari has called for unity and harmony to address the challenge of extremism and terrorism in the country.
He was addressing the concluding session of the National Conference on Interfaith Harmony titled "Living together with diversity-Interfaith and inter-cultural dialogue" in Islamabad on Friday.
The president said: “We believe in tolerant Islam and have to counter those who believe in hate. We have been pleading to the world that the way the issue of terrorism is being addressed would not lead us to the win. There is need for adopting approach of peace and reconciliation.”
He said that over three decades of war could not brought peace in Afghanistan and Pakistan was worst affected by it. He added: “There was time when no one in Pakistan could imagine blowing himself up as Islam is against suicide. People at that time lived in peace and there were no sectarian issues but global politics changed the situation when religion was used for fanning war.”
He said there was a need for adopting the approach of peace and reconciliation to eliminate the menace of extremism and terrorism.
President Zardari said the world has not yet fully realised the dangerous consequences of using religion and faith as a weapon of war.
He said after witnessing the dire consequences of using religion as a tool to win wars, the world cannot afford to allow anyone use the religion for their vested interests.
Spokesperson to the President Senator Farhatullah Babar while giving details said the president in his speech recalled the prescient words of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto during a conversation with George Bush when she had said that a veritable Frankenstein was being created to defeat the rival ideology.
The spokesperson said the president during his speech dilated upon how militants were created and nurtured by the international community to defeat a rival ideology and the same militants had turned on its creators as was predicted by Shaheed Benazir Bhutto.
The president said it was disturbing to see that the values of tolerance and harmony were fast eroding during present times.
He said the extremists have destroyed the peace in the name of religion. He said extremism was not confined to any one religion or country. It was growing the world over and at an alarming trend.
Recalling his meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon in the UAE in January 2010, the president said that he had appealed to UN Secretary General that the United Nations should work out special plans for promoting cultural and religious harmony.
He said he made that appeal because we believe that rationality and sanity were fast eroding. "We must act before rationality is completely destroyed," the president continued. The president said that Pakistan fully supports the universal values of tolerance and harmony promoted by the UN. That is why, he said, we urge the UN to take practical steps for promoting religious harmony and tolerance. The president said the values of tolerance and harmony could not be divided into Islamic or Christian. Efforts for promotion of tolerance and harmony must be across the religious and geographical divides.
"We must guard against making exceptions and selectivity. Exceptions and selectivity will not promote harmony. If anything, it will only further increase it," he said.
Advisor to Prime Minister on National Harmony Dr Paul Bhatti said since its inception in 2011‚ the Ministry of National Harmony took several important steps to promote harmony and interfaith dialogue.
He said that over 4,000 scholarships have been given to students hailing from poor families and seats of minorities have been increased in national and provincial assemblies.
He said that no religion teaches violence or extremism and we should live together peacefully as citizen of Pakistan as envisioned by Quaid-e-Azam.
Justice (r) Rana Bhagwan Das said ‘we can address the challenge of extremism and terrorism through unity and tolerance and there is need to take practical steps to promote inter-faith harmony’.
Central Ruet-e-Hilal Committee Chairman Mufti Muneebur Rehman read out declaration of the conference that called for establishing a National Council for Interfaith Harmony consisting of representatives from different faiths.
The conference also recommended formation of local level committees to promote national harmony.
It proposed discarding use of the word 'minorities' replacing it with some appropriate word like Non-Muslim Pakistanis.
The conference recommended encouragement of inter-faith dialogue and steps by the international community to address root causes of terrorism. It condemned terrorism in all forms and manifestations, emphasising that terrorism should not be attributed to a particular group or nation.
A copy of the declaration was presented to the president.