My previous article, ‘Tolerant Pakistan’ was very well-received. All the peace-loving segments of society supported my viewpoint that prosperity cannot be achieved without ensuring a tolerant society based on equal rights and social justice. In order to ensure that Pakistan moves towards a bright future, we need to make Quaid-e-Azam’s August 11, 1947 speech our national vision.
The media and the academia have a pivotal role in any democratic setup, and so I decided to bring them closer by launching a forum – ‘Tolerant Pakistan Media Network’ – this week to strengthen collective efforts to promote tolerance in our society. Let me reiterate that tolerance does not mean agreeing with other people but disagreeing with them in a respectful manner.
Unfortunately, our society is becoming intolerant. The horrific murder of Mashal Khan at a higher education institute in Mardan shows that ideologies based on violence and extremism are gaining influence throughout the country. It is regrettable that people are taking the law in their own hands and killing others just because of differences in opinion. This unwanted situation will lead our beloved country nowhere but towards disaster.
Although, the media rejects the allegations that it promotes intolerance and claims to reflect society like a mirror, it is true that whatever is published in newspapers or shown on television screens leaves a strong impact on peoples’ minds. While I agree that if the media doesn’t show the ongoing injustice with the poor and deprived people, their voices will not be echoed in the power corridors, but this practice is not only painful for sensitive citizens but also damaging to the country’s international image.
The intolerance and extremism in our society is not a new phenomenon. Many Western countries have also faced it in the past: European countries fought horrific wars with each other and blacks were barred from entering restaurants and public places in the US. But these countries realised that hate-based policies will never deliver positive results and it is in their best interest to build a tolerant society. Today, the European Union – consisting of 28 member states – is a role model for promoting world peace. US citizens are selecting black presidents.
All religions urge their followers to work towards peace and prosperity in their societies. The Charter of Medina is a golden example in this regard. However, Pakistani society is labelled as one of the most intolerant and extremist societies today. Peace-loving citizens must come forward and promote tolerance and positive values in society to show the true face of Pakistan. This is not an easy task and requires collective effort. Keeping this in view, people from different walks of life were invited to the launching ceremony of ‘Tolerant Pakistan Media Network’. The forum’s logo also shows people from diverse backgrounds joining hands together to work for the betterment of Pakistan.
Federal Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Sardar Muhammad Yousuf – chief guest at the event – stated that ensuring equal rights to all citizens is one of the top priorities of the current government.
On the occasion, different foreign diplomats – of the EU, Russia, Belgium, Mauritius and Azerbaijan – came and shared their experiences of building tolerant societies in their respective countries. EU Ambassador Jean-Francois Cautain, in his special address, highlighted how quality education, human values and social justice are key factors of a tolerant European society. He also emphasised the need to hold journalist trainings and exchange programmes that contribute to the building of a tolerant society. The participants also agreed that a society with low tolerance can never live a long and peaceful life.
HEC Chairperson Dr Mukhtar – who ensured the active participation of different universities’ vice chancellors at the ceremony – said that intolerance was not limited to Pakistan but was a global phenomenon. He added that ‘generation gap’ was one of the key reasons for intolerance in our society.
The decision to organise a series of events in different universities through the platform of ‘Tolerant Pakistan Media Network’ in collaboration with the HEC was also taken at the event.
A large number of media personnel also attended the ceremony. They were urged to raise awareness about a tolerant society free from prejudice for everyone. It was also decided to open the membership of ‘Tolerant Pakistan Media Network’ to TV anchors, reporters, cameramen, photojournalists, cartoonists and all those affiliated with any Pakistani media or foreign media outlet based in Pakistan. The only requirement is that they must raise awareness on the issue of tolerance through their writings, TV reporting and blogs at least once a month. I believe that God helps those who help themselves and our selfless efforts for a ‘tolerant Pakistan’ will have a positive impact in the near future.
The writer is a member of the National Assembly and patron-in-chief of the
Pakistan Hindu Council.