Declaration of religion would not harm minorities, says Religious Ministry

In this Oct. 11, 2011, file photo, supporters of Pakistani religious groups gather outside the Islamabad High Court in Islamabad, Pakistan. (AP)
Updated 12 March 2018
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Declaration of religion would not harm minorities, says Religious Ministry

ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony said on Sunday that requirement of declaration of religion by all citizens on official documents was only meant for official work and would not harm religious minorities.
“The declaration of religion by all citizens is not for public consumption, but only for official work to facilitate the religious minorities in education, employment and all other sectors,” Sajjad Qamar, a spokesperson for the ministry, told Arab News.
He said the Islamabad High Court’s recent verdict on the matter would ensure the rights of religious minorities, adding: “There is zero chance of their religious persecution.”
“The government and all state institutions are committed to ensuring the safety and security of all citizens, irrespective of their religion, caste or creed,” he said.
Qamar said that religious minorities played a vital role in the creation of Pakistan, and they were still playing an active and positive role in all segments of the society.
“The declaration of religion by all citizens will actually help religious minorities secure their five percent quota in all government jobs,” he emphasized.
He added that people of all religions in Pakistan respected each other and the country’s laws guaranteed equal rights to all citizens. “The state does not discriminate against people on the basis of their religion,” he maintained. “Religious minorities are vital part of our society and they will continue enjoying equal rights.”
The Islamabad High Court ruled on Friday that people were required to declare their religion on all official documents and take an oath upon joining the civil service, armed forces or judiciary.
Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, who penned the verdict, emphasized that the constitution granted “complete religious freedom, including all the basic rights to the minorities (Non-Muslims).”
The judge also clarified that the state was bound to “protect their (religious minorities) life, wealth, property, dignity and protect their assets as citizens of Pakistan.”
However, members of religious minorities have expressed their concerns over the ruling and urged the government to ensure protection of their life and property.
“There is no need of religious identity of any citizen as the state guarantees equal rights to all, irrespective of their faith,” Anjum Paul, a Christian social activist and professor at a public university, told Arab News.
He said the court ruling may create complexities for the minorities and it was the responsibility of the government to file a review petition against the verdict in the Supreme Court.
“The world is a global village and no other country in the world requires its citizens to declare their religious identity on all official documents,” he said. “This needs to be reviewed by the Supreme Court.”
Dr. Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, Patron-in-chief of Pakistan Hindu Council, told Arab News that Pakistan’s constitution already guaranteed equal rights to all its citizens and the recent court verdict would further augment it.
“The court has just interpreted the constitution and there is nothing in it to be worried about,” he said. “Hindus and all other minorities have full freedom in Pakistan to practice their religion and celebrate their religious festivals.”
Tahir Malik, political analyst, told Arab News that the declaration of religion on official documents by all citizens was not going to affect religious minorities, except the Ahmadi community, which is already vulnerable to violence by religious extremists.
“If the declaration of religion is kept limited to the official work only, then there is no issue,” he said. “However, the state and its business should ideally be religion-neutral to avoid any misconception and exploitation of any sect and faith.”


Former US VP Biden announces 2020 run for White House

Updated 25 April 2019
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Former US VP Biden announces 2020 run for White House

  • Biden joins an already crowded list of presidential candidates running from the Democratic party
  • He served eight years as Barack Obama’s vice president

WASHINGTON: Former US Vice President Joe Biden announced Thursday he is entering the 2020 White House race, joining an already crowded list of candidates running on the Democratic Party platform.
In a tweet accompanied by a three-and-a-half minute video, Biden said he couldn’t stand idly by while US President Donald Trump “fundamentally altered the character of this nation.”
“The core values of this nation... our standing in the world... our very democracy... everything that has made America — America — is at stake,” he wrote in the post.
“That’s why today I’m announcing my candidacy for President of the United States.”
Even before his official announcement, Biden, who served eight years as Barack Obama’s vice president, led most surveys of Democratic voters.
The RealClearPolitics poll aggregate puts him as favorite with 29.3 percent support, followed by independent Senator Bernie Sanders at 23 percent.