ISLAMABAD - President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minster Raja Pervaiz Ashraf reiterated their government’s resolve to guard minorities’ rights.

In his message on the Minorities Day to be observed today (August 11), the president said: “Let’s reiterate today that we will uphold the ideals of equal rights and complete freedom to everyone to freely profess and practice religion.

He said: “It is a special day in our national calendar when we reiterate our commitment to the ideals of Quaid-i-Azam and Quaid-i-Awam to continue striving for the protection of the rights of people of all faiths and bringing them to the mainstream of national life.” “On this day, we reaffirm our pledge to honour the commitment made by our great leaders of according equal treatment to all our citizens irrespective of their religion, caste and creed,” he added.

The President said it was on this day in 1947 when the Quaid in his historic address to the Constituent Assembly outlined the contours of a modern and tolerant Pakistan in which people of all faiths will have equal rights and opportunities regardless of their caste and creed, adding, nowhere else than in this address is the vision of the great Quaid so explicitly expressed.

The president said: “On this day, let’s remember and pay homage to those courageous advocates of interfaith harmony like Shahbaz Bhatti and countless others who waged war for the cause of promoting religious tolerance and interfaith harmony. Let us demonstrate that their blood was not shed in vain.” “Let us on this day also pledge to promote democratic values and culture as a necessary tool of promoting tolerance, peace and harmony and ending violence and extremism as well as the alleviating the sufferings of our non-Muslim brethren,” he added.

“This vision of a tolerant and modern Pakistan was also embodied in the consensus Constitution of 1973,” he added.

The President said the government, inspired by the vision of its great leaders, had already taken a number of steps and observance of Minorities Day reflected its commitment to integrate people of all faiths into the national mainstream.”

“Reservation of job quotas in government services, celebrations of religious festivals of people of all faiths at official level and reserving four seats for them in the Senate are some of the measures that reflect our commitment to uphold the rights of the people of different faiths. We will continue to do even more,” he added.

In his message, PM Ashraf recalled the first address of Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah to the Constituent Assembly on August 11 wherein the Quaid said: “You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed - that has nothing to do with the business of the State.”

He said, “The day is being celebrated in the country to highlight the services, contributions and role of the minorities in the socio-economic development of Pakistan. Islam ordains equality of rights and protects religious freedom of all faiths. Islamic history is full of such instances.”

“The government of Pakistan stands committed to the preservation of rights of minorities in Pakistan and has taken a number of concrete steps for their welfare. It is a matter of satisfaction that, we continue to be one nation living with mutual respect, honour, peace and harmony. We recognise that our minorities as equal citizens of the state.”