November 2014-March 2017
Third phase of the Project ‘Just and Sustainable Peace in Pakistan’ was initiated in April 1, 2016 in collaboration with NCA at one Union Council of district Lahore and two Union Councils of Tehsil Samundri in district Faisalabad. Project duration was from April 1, 2016 to March 31, 2017. The overall goal of the project was “Civil society including religious actors contributes to just and sustainable peace in Pakistan”. Main target groups in this project were female and male leaders from civil society organisations, youth leaders, teachers, lawyers, journalists and religious groups.
People from different walks of life benefitted through the Consultations, Interfaith Dialogues, Peacebuilding Conferences, Network of Community Peace Groups (CPGs), Women Peace builder’s Group (WPG), Seminars and TV talks held in the areas of Samundri District Faisalabad, Lahore and Islamabad. From April 1, 2016 to March 31, 2017 total 425 Participants of planned programs, including 127 Christians, 324 Muslims and 1 Hindu participated in which 344 males and 108 females were present. Audience of unplanned programs also benefited by PDF’s expertise on peacebuilding through different interventions organized by different organizations and platforms those are working on similar agenda 2,931 individuals were present including Muslims 1,320, Christians 1,390, Hindu 139 and Sikh 82 (male1, 929 and females 1,002). Besides, indirect beneficiaries of electronic, print and social media were also a considerable number 4087.
Highlights of Major Activities
A conference on ‘Legal Implications: for Interfaith Harmony and Equal Citizenship’
The conference was organized with Bar Association Samundri; district Faisalabad on August 29, 2016 with the participation of 75 lawyers including president of Bar Association, Samundri.
Diversity is the will of God and we ought to accept it with open hearts and minds. All religions preach similar virtues /ethics, human values as far as peaceful co-existence is concerned. Likewise, our shared cultural and social values and traditions could lead us in promoting much needed interfaith harmony in our society. This is the approach that is imperative to follow to sowing the seed of peaceful co-existence. Our shared history offers number of such occasion including the historic document of ‘Charter of Medina’ for the solution of issues, especially in the existing multi religious country context and problems regarding equal citizenship in Pakistan. Therefore, it is a need of the hour to ensure constitutional and fundamental rights to all segments of the society in order to develop a pluralistic and just society by the state.
Moreover, strive for proper implementation of progressive laws based on equity and equality needs to be implemented in letter and spirit. For this purpose lawyer’s community can play a vital role for the promotion of the opinion that all the citizens are equal before the law. Thus, discriminatory laws should be challenged and amended in order to ensure the impartiality of justice system. These were some of the major points emerged in the discussions of panellists during ‘Interfaith Conference with Bar Association’ in Samundri, district Faisalabad. The focus of the conference was the situation of interfaith harmony and way forward to make Pakistan a prosperous and peaceful country according to the vision of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
Tahir Paswal, President Bar Association Samundri in his concluding remarks narrated that, the enemies of Pakistan wanted to weaken us by dividing our society on the bases of religion and sectarian affiliations. We should realize that Hindu, Sikhs, Christians who are living in Pakistan with Pakistani nationality, they are our sisters and brothers. We often experienced that whenever something happened with Muslims in USA and West, always Christian community become the victim of the violent mob and if something done by India with Muslims we tried to take revenge by the Pakistan Hindus. We need to change our mind set and need to understand that if we wanted to react against the policies of West and India towards Muslims we should be united internally first to give collective response as a nation and give solid message to the international community’s by standing unite in solidarity with the victims. As far as contribution of minority communities is concerned in creation and development of Pakistan, minorities has earned great respect and we all are in bond of brotherhood and wish to promote and strengthen it further by understanding the diversity of nature and giving respect to the faith based communities. He appreciated the work of PDF for bridging up the gaps and peace interventions among the different faith communities for communal harmony and peace building.
Interfaith Conference’ at Lahore High Court Bar Association
September 20, 2016: Peace and Development Foundation organized a conference on ‘Legal Implications: for Interfaith Harmony and Equal Citizenship’ at Lahore High Court Bar Association in which 23 lawyers participated (males 19, females 4). The purpose was to share the progressive laws by which we make the religiously divided and segregated society unite and ensure religious harmony. Due to the religious extremism, non-Muslim Pakistani faced a lot of challenges and their religious freedom, freedom of expression and freedom to avail good and equal opportunities in educational institution and other public sector organizations remained a question mark. Therefore if lawyer community handle this situation and defend the legal rights to uplift the weaken segment of the society by highlighting the progressive laws as a connectors it would contribute for the positive outcomes towards the nation building. Through this initiative PDF intended to seek the support of the opinion makers i.e. lawyers to analysis these laws and drafts a new bill for amendments in discriminatory laws. In the light of this bill they make suggestion in front of the authorities for the possible amendments that can bridge up the gaps between minority and majority.
All lawyers male and female participants including Waheed Ahmed, Chairmen international Peace and Law Committee of Lahore High Court Bar Association and Rana Zia Abdul Rehman, President Lahore High Court Bar Association were agreed with the agenda. Presedent in his concluding speech welcomed the idea of the PDF for a nation building and showed their willingness to sign the MOU and appreciated PDF for presenting the whole case as a Pakistani not as a Faith Based Organization FBO or a minority group.
The members of both Bar Association at Samundri and Lahore shared affectionately that their bodies of lawyers doesn’t discriminate its members on the basis of their religions and sects.
Video Statements of members of Bar Association Lahore
Interfaith Harmony Day Celebrated
Prevailing Progressive laws and Social Practices towards Equal Citizenship and Harmonious Society
Seminar on the ‘Prevailing Progressive Laws and Social Practices towards Equal Citizenship and Harmonious Society’ was organised in Lahore on January 14, 2017. The event was aimed to generate discussion on the issues around the topic and to solicit opinions on how these laws contribute in ensuring equal opportunities and religious harmony to the citizens of Pakistan regardless of faith, belief, caste or any other identity for the matter. The panellists of this seminar were; (Ms. Romana Bashir (Executive Director PDF), Dr. Jaffer Zaidi (Analyst of History and Present Context), Hafiz Nouman (National Coordinator of World Council of Religions), Mr. Waqar Mustafa (Senior Journalists and affiliated with HRCP), Mr. Haroon Adeem (Senior Columnist), Dr. Arifa Saeeda Zehra (former Chairperson NCSW), Kalyan Singh ( Lecturer at Government University, Lahore), and Barrister Anil Chaudhry who contributed by expressing their thought provoking view on the subject.
The seminar was attended by 86 community members (male 65, female 21, Christians 38, Muslims 48, and Sikh 01) including renowned civil society representatives, educationists, minority representatives, lawyers, religious leaders and journalists. The purpose of the seminar was to make the general public aware on the prevailing progressive laws that ensure equal rights for all the citizens of Pakistan and hence, to promote nationalism and interfaith harmony. The speakers of the seminar have pointed out the flaws and gaps that need to be redressed by the policy makers and implanting authorities. They emphasized on that a strong check and balance mechanism must be in place for the proper implementation and practice of the laws. They also highlighted the fact that Pakistan was made for all the citizens including the religious minorities living in Pakistan to live in peaceful co-existence. Romana Bashir, Executive Director PDF, during her concluding remarks said that we need to join hands to reclaim the Pakistan of Jinnah. She said that we need to identify our shortcomings and take corrective measures that are required to build our nation free of all sorts of discriminations.
PDF organised four interfaith dialogues with various organisations like Working Women Development Foundation, Anjuman Falah e Millat Lahore and SHAAD Lahore, BAR Associations and lawyers, and Government Post graduate college Samundri. The purpose to conduct these dialogues was to augment interfaith harmony among the multi-religious communities living in various areas of Lahore where the tense and hostile environment had prevailed for inter-religious relations and social dialogues. These dialogues were aimed to bring multi religious community members on a one platform where they can discuss, understand and bring in their social practices to ensure peace full co-existence at local areas. The participants of these interfaith dialogue were from Religious Scholars/leaders, politicians, faith communities, students and intellectuals appreciated the interfaith dialogue and expressed that such initiatives are the need of the time. They said that interfaith dialogue open up the mind-sets and creates interfaith harmony.
Story of Religious Discrimination with Student by the Teacher
Naveed Rafique S/O Rafique Masih, a Christian student of 8th Grade was declared as failed in Nazra (oral) Islamiyat exams by his Muslim teacher on a flimsy pretext. He appeared in the examination of Punjab Examination Commission held in April 2016, under Roll No.68-426-220 in district Faisalabad. In the oral examination of Islamiyat (Islamic Studies) the examiner told him at the spot, “You are failed as you have not recited Kalimah.” Naveed Rafique said, “I am Christian and I do not know the Islamic Kalimah.” The honourable examiner deliberately attempted to have forced conversion of Naveed Rafique violating Article 22 (1) of the Constitution of Pakistan and when he could not achieve his purpose he declared him failed. It could also be termed as a case of forced conversion. However, Naveed refused to recite Kalma by exercising his religious rights given by the constitution of Pakistan.
After getting information about the incident, Professor Anjum James Paul, Coordinator Peace and Development Foundation (PDF) decided to take up the case to provide justice to victim of this discriminative behavior. He highlighted the case and pleaded it with the concerned authorities and wrote letters to the top officials of the government of Pakistan including the Prime Minister, Chief Minister Punjab and federal and provincial education ministers with the details of the incident and urge for an appropriate action.
The case was finally brought into the notice of Executive Director Officer (EDO) Education Faisalabad. As a result of hearing and on the basis of all available evidences, EDO charged the teacher under the education Act 2006 and thus withheld the teacher’s promotion for three years as disciplinary act. This punishment is considered the major penalty for the violator of rules and regulations under Education Policy Act 2006.
This positive action which was entailed as enrolling of Naveed in 9th grade as well in a well reputed school of district Sumandari, saved the loss of one academic year of the victim. As a kind gesture, He was also provided with books and uniform besides arrangement of fee for his enrolment by the EDO Education. The EDO Faisalabad also sent a request to Punjab Education Commission, Centre Examination Board to award average marks to Naveed in the Islamiyat exam as he was not allowed to appear in the examination for the same.
After the incidence of Youhanabad; the political and religious leadership of Lahore and Samundri has appreciated and endorsed the efforts of PDF for peacebuilding in the districts.
The conference at Lahore remained very productive and the members of Lahore Bar Association appreciated PDF for involving lawyer’s community in the peacebuilding process. They acknowledged that discriminations in our legal system do exist while they are ready to contribute in the cause by providing free legal aid in cases like forced conversions and forced marriages referred by PDF. They also expressed their willingness to draft a bill redressing legal discriminations that could be presented for legislation with the lobbying support provided by PDF
The sharing of different point of view with the different audience at diverse platforms by a non-Muslim woman leader and the acceptance for the transformation of knowledge was the great achievement for PDF. Few religious leaders than project t areas invited PDF to address in their Madrassas.
Executive Director of PDF Romana Bashir, in recognition of her services has been honored by renowned and prestigious educational institution, Diocesan Board of Education (DBE), Rawalpindi. She has been requested by DBE authority to join the board as its honorable member.
The national lobbying delegation for minorities rights is a group of civil society organizations formed by the community world service CWS consisting of writers, members of civil society organization, rights activists, journalists and lawyers who worked towards promoting the equal rights on non-Muslim Pakistani citizens. NLD highlighted major issues that religious minorities in Pakistan have been facing in recent years; religious discrimination, insecurity, non-compliance of the job quota and long standing issues of ‘Hindu Marriage bill’. As a member of NLD, PDF played its profound role in the forum and as a result after 70years Hindu marriage bill was approved by the parliament and senate.