At 900-year-old Hindu temple, PM reaches out to minorities

* Nawaz says scholars using 'strange interpretations' of Islam to preach hate against other religions is not lawful

At 900-year-old Hindu temple, PM reaches out to minorities

KATAS RAJ: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday said safeguarding rights of religious minorities in the country would be ensured and every effort would be made to give them due status in the society.

Nawaz, who earlier inaugurated refurbishment, renovation and a water filtration plant at the Katas Raj Temple, said humanity was the greatest religion of all and no one was permitted to discriminate on the basis of caste, colour and creed.

He said being the PM, it was his religious obligation to take care of every citizen of the country without any discrimination.

"I am the Prime Minister of all Pakistanis, be it a Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Christian or any other, you all are equal," he said.

He said Islam in particular forbade anyone from calling bad names to other religions and their places of worship.

The event was significant as it was attended by representatives of Muslims, Sikh, Hindu, Christian and Parsi religions.

"Salam, Namaste, Satt Sri Akaal and good morning to all my brothers belonging to different religions," he greeted the audience, receiving a cheerful applause.

Nawaz said the multi-faith gathering was reflective of inter-faith harmony in the country. While everyone was free to pursue his particular religions, they all had a common objective of taking care of the humanity.

"We have to work together in unity to build Pakistan and strive for humanitarian causes," he added.

He said in earlier days of Islam, Muslims being a minority had to face a very tough time and were forced to go in exile, however on their return from Medina becoming a majority, they took good care of people believing in other faiths.

He said Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) entered into several agreements with people of other faiths, including tribes of Yasrab and Jews.

He said it was the moral responsibility of all to keep divine scriptures and religious books in high esteem and regretted that some religious leaders fanned sentiments of hatred among people in sheer misinterpretation of Islam.

The PM said the history of Katas Raj Temple was over 5,000 years old and was a focal point of four civilizations, including Hinduism, Sikhism, Budhism and Christianity.

He mentioned that Persian scholar and polymath Al-Beruni at the same place had computed earth's circumference.

He specially directed the Evacuee Trust Property Board chairman to take care of the properties of the minorities and ensure they were in the best possible condition.

He said all efforts must be made to restore the Katas Raj Temple to its original condition so as to preserve its historic significance.

Nawaz said Islam also forbade people in levelling baseless allegations against others with a malicious intent. Such negative trends, he added, were harming the society and detrimental to progress and development.

The PM said when he took over the country was mired in serious issues, however with persistent efforts and commitment, his government was able to successfully tackle those.

He mentioned load shedding, poor road network, terrorism and several other challenges that were addressed by his government.

He said the government was even building major roads in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, despite their (PTI) claims for "making a new Pakistan".

He said the travel time from Peshawar to Karachi through the six-lane motorway would be cut drastically and people would be able to go from one place to other in a day.

Lawmaker Dr Darshan Lal lauded Nawaz for taking the country out of the several challenges and said his successful policies had left the opposition in disarray, who had nothing to do but to level baseless allegations.

Pakistan Bishop Alexander John Malik said the PM's vision for Pakistan was laudable and the minorities were happy that he had taken along all the minorities in the development and progress of the country. He said the PM had never imposed his will on anyone and believed in consensus.

Sardar Tara Singh lauded the government for the upkeep of the Gurdawaras. He said the government was according equal treatment to all minorities and particularly thanked the PM on behalf of the Sikh community.