Pakistan: Open letter to General Musharraf

Pakistanis for Peace and Alternative Development - [PPAD]
Open letter on freedom of religion in Pakistan.
The members of Pakistanis for Peace and Alternative Development - [PPAD] - an international group of scholars, professionals and activists welcome the act to abolish separate electorates for Religious Minorities in Pakistan.
We see it as a small first step towards eradicating the causes of incipient religious fascism that has plagued Pakistan in the past decades and threatens to completely undo the State.

In fact the notion of a "Religious Minority" itself opens the door of potential abuse of the citizens considered to be members of a minority. A Nation State does not have the prerogative to control the religious beliefs of an individual. Such measures only encourage hypocrisy and superficiality in matters of belief which remain the prerogative of an individuals conscience and very individual and private inner quests. We believe that all citizens of Pakistan ought to enjoy the same rights and privileges regardless of religion, race, ethnic origin, gender or sexual orientation.

Having dissolved separate electorates for religious minorities it is equally important to undo the Blasphemy Law, a vestige of the British Common Law which then was completely abused by the Muslim fanatics. The Blasphemy Law flies in the face of both the teachings of the Quran (Sura 2: Verse 256) and the UN convention on the freedom of belief and conscience. It promotes and condones an intolerance that is completely out of step with the current international community s value of religious freedom and inter-religious harmony from which Muslims as minorities in Western countries have greatly benefited.

Moreover the requirement to make a declaration of one s belief on the application forms for the National Identity cards and passports is a disturbing and telltale sign of religious fascism which is reminiscent of the intimidating and humiliating imposition of identifying marks on the clothing of religious minorities. Since religious belief is a private matter of individual conscience the application forms for National Identity cards and passports ought to be revised to exclude the clauses that pertain to religious matters.

Dr. Ghazala Anwar
(University of Canterbury, World Council of Muslims for Inter-faith Relations - WCMIR, New Zealand)

Mr Cecil Choudhary
(College Principal, Pakistan)

Nazeer A Chaudhry
(Business, USA)

Owais Hasin
(Architect, Pakistan)

Prof. Hassan Gardezi
(Professor Emeritus, Sociology, Canada)

Prof. Bilal Hashmi
(Department of Sociology, Professor Emeritus, Eastern Washington University, USA)

Mr Ayyub Malik
(Architect, Urban Planner and Writer, London, UK)

Dr Babar Mumtaz
(Reader, University College London, UK)

Prof A H Nayyar
(Quaid-i-Azam University, Pakistan)

Dr. Ahmed Shibli
(Science, Technology and Development, UK)