KARACHI – A forum, comprising veteran politicians, retired bureaucrats, civil society members and lawyers, was formed on Wednesday to launch a movement to uphold the Quaid-e-Azam’s vision of Pakistan, to ensure equal rights and opportunities to all citizens regardless of their caste, colour, religion or creed, and to preserve peace and religious tolerance in Pakistani society. The forum, Movement for Peace and Religious Tolerance, is a non-political entity, its chief, Mairaj Muhammad Khan, told a news conference at the Press Club. They invited peace-loving citizens, traders, lawyers, civil society activists and media persons to join them in their noble cause of preserving peace and tolerance in the country. The forum leader, however, announced support for MQM’s referendum of November 14 through which the party would seek views of the masses whether they wanted the Quaid’s Pakistan or that of the Taliban. Another important forum leader, former senator Iqbal Haider, who could not turn up due to his illness, in his message, announced support for MQM’s referendum against the Taliban. MQM MNA Kishwar Zehra was also present when Haider’s message was read out during the media interaction.The forum, of which retired bureaucrats, civil society activists and lawyers are part, will put up efforts to uphold the Quaid’s vision of Pakistan based on the principles repeatedly enunciated by him of a truly democratic, progressive Pakistan, with equal rights and opportunities for all, regardless of their religion, caste or creed. Mairaj Khan told the media he would lead the forum for an interim period until new office-bearers took the charge through an intra-party poll. Sharing the declaration of the organization, the forum leaders exhorted the federal and provincial governments as well as state agencies to do away with their policy of appeasing and encouraging religious extremists, militants and terrorists, or anti-terrorist militias, and to effectively keep a vigil on their anti-social activities. The declaration stated that unfortunately, Quaid-e-Azam's pronouncement was ignored by his successors and was made to move in quite opposite direction by trying to make Pakistan an obscurantist, clergy-driven and a non-democratic state. “Successive governments have pampered orthodox, politico-religious forces and allowed them to design the educational syllabi which, instead of cultivating the spirit of cultural pluralism in the minds of the new generation, indoctrinated them with bias against other religions.”The declaration added, ‘This is not the Pakistan the Quaid visualised. A brief glance at the current scenario shows how precariously Pakistan is perched. A declining economy, growing unemployment, constantly increasing prices and a deteriorating law & order situation was not something new. The US invasion of Afghanistan compounded all these problems & brought the salvoes of the 'war on terror' into Pakistan. The increasing acts of violence by terrorist groups have not only destroyed schools in FATA & Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa & particularly Malakand but also attacked government installations, headquarters of intelligence agencies, Mehran Naval base, Karachi, Kamra air force establishment and even GHQ itself.” The forum leaders pointed out that the Shia community were being targeted by banned terrorist cells from Mansehra to Karachi, in Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan. They said that so far, such attacks had killed thousands of people, including lawyers, doctors and engineers. “The Christians continue to be targeted under the garb of the blasphemy law, only to discover local clerical elements at work to oust them from their property. Forced conversions of Hindus and their victimisation have prompted many to leave the country,” they said with dismay, while adding that “businessmen were leaving for Dubai, Malaysia, Bangladesh and other places over insecurity and the increasing incidents of extortion that had diluted the economy, accentuating an already explosive social milieu.“Baluchistan has been simmering with discontent, with the youth having taken to the mountains with the avowed aim of separation. The province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa is also in a state of war,” noted the forum leaders.They maintained that Pakistani Talban and others terrorist outfits were claiming one act of terror after another against schools, specially girls schools, governments installations, hotels, and even mausoleums of saints, such as Rahman Baba in Khyber Pakhtoonkhawa, Data Ganj Buksh in Lahore, and Abdullah Shah Ghazi in Sindh.“However, the countrywide condemnation of the attack on young girl, Malala Yousafzai and the support she received from students, youth and the general public throughout the country has thoroughly isolated these extremists and exposed some of the religious parties. It is not our purpose to merely analyse the past or speak of doom and gloom but to use this analysis to forge a way forward to extricate ourselves from this multi-faceted crises.”