Islamabad, May 02, 2018 (PPI-OT): For pluralism to sustainable, there is a dire need for a solid human right architecture in place coupled with measures to control hate speeches and misuse of laws that incite violence in the society. Also, there is a need for responsible engagement by all stakeholders including religious scholars, members of civil society, academia, media and political leadership to build a consensus to form a pluralistic society. Our society needs to be built on the principles of mutual respect and mutual coexistence. For that investment in the education of young generation will promote the concept of pluralism.

These views were expressed by the experts at the inaugural plenary of three-day international Citizens Roundtable titled ‘Charting Pathways for Pluralism’ organized by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) here on Wednesday.

Speaking on the occasion, Lt-Gen. (Retd) Zaheer-ul-Islam, Chairman, Centre for Global and Strategic Studies (CGSS) said that pluralism is one of the major challenges of 21st century and it can be achieved in totality by ultimately winning hearts and minds. He said desired social integration that was expected has not been achieved so far rather the society has become more polarized than ever before, where people feel unsafe and unsure of their future. Unfortunately, our religious and political leaders have never tried to bring people on the common strand, he added.

Let-Gen Zaheer said Pakistan has a pluralistic society diverse in culture and religion, but unfortunately, the process of social integration has remained slow. He said the debate on pluralism has already begun and people have understood that it is more important to be united as a nation than to be divided. “The government should adopt multi-pronged strategy aiming to curb extremism and to bring people together of different faith and ethnic groups,” he suggested.

Earlier, Jan Figel, EU Special Envoy on Freedom of Religion or Belief, European Union (EU) said we are living in an increasingly diverse world, where widespread religious intolerance, growing social hostilities and rising inequalities are the major challenges. He said the overall picture of pluralism is grave in this region, where there is intensifying religious discrimination and increase in intolerance and extremism.

“The challenge for Pakistan and even for EU is to build a common goal and new solution to ensure mutual respect and acceptance in the society,” said Jan Figel. He said religious leaders have special influence in the society and have a larger responsibility to shape a pluralistic society. To counter the extremist narrative the religious leaders has the crucial role and can play also a preventive role for peaceful coexistence, he added.

Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri, SDPI Executive Director said pluralism is about peaceful co-existence among the followers of different religions and beliefs with the objective of zero tolerance against incitement of hate, extremism, and violence. He said that the very basis of Pakistan’s foundation lies in peaceful co-existence. “Our constitution in articles 20, 21, 25, 26, 27, 28, and 36 provides full protection and equal rights to all citizens, including minorities without any discrimination”, said Dr Abid. He said our National Action Plan’s (NAP) points 5, 9, 15 and 18 clearly indicate actions against promoting intolerance, sectarianism and extremism. There are constitutional foundation and clear policy for interfaith harmony, however, we are struggling to achieve interfaith harmony despite various actions and measures, he added. Dr Abid stressed the need for ensuring enabling environment and charting a framework for peaceful coexistence and mutual respect.

Dr Qibla Ayaz, Chairman, Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) on the occasion said that the entire structure of the society in Pakistan and the world is changing and that requires experience sharing and learning from one another. He said it is our responsibility and this generation to ensure mutual respect, sense of living together and dignity to counter extremism. Chairman CII said the sense of inclusive society is embedded in 1973 constitution which was signed by all schools of thoughts and accepted by all religious groups. He said this 1973 constitution is a very prestigious document and we are hoping to have the pluralism society in near future.

Romina Khurshid Alam, Member of National Assembly (MNA), said Pakistan has the population of 207 million, which is diverse in all respect. She said this diversity seeks to develop an interfaith harmony and religious pluralism in the society so that people from a diverse range of beliefs might live in peace leading towards sustainable development as well as an inclusive society. Collective actions require from state and citizen to ensure intolerance, she added.

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Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI)
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