While the Christian and Hindu minorities in Pakistan should be congratulated for finally being handed closed holidays for Diwali, Holi and Easter - they can take leaves from their schools and offices on these days if they belong to the relevant belief system - the proceedings within the National Assembly that led to this resolution being passed are worthy of note. Rakesh Kumar Vankwani, a member of the NA through the ruling PML-N used the argument of promoting a good image of the country in the international community for it to be passed. While the MNA cannot be faulted for not using the freedom of religion argument and instead trying to appeal to the better sense of his more rigid peers, Information Minister used the excuse of already having too many national holidays in the calendar year as a reason to reconsider this. While there was no direct opposition to the resolution, there was hesitation, and that alone belies the actual mood of the country with regards to the provision of rights for its minorities.

The PML-N has been making headlines lately, as everyone expresses their shock over what seems to be a conviction to steer the country towards a more moderate ideological direction. Whether this new-found inclination towards making moderate policies is a genuine attempt to counter extremism and enable the protection of minorities as a consequence or a means to satisfy western countries remains to be seen. The latter will not be far from the government’s mind, specifically with regards to taking advantage of policies such as the EU’s GSP Plus Status.

The alienation felt as a result of the minorities having to work on their holidays is hard to imagine for all those that belong to the majority religion. The persecution of minorities begins when they are treated as second-class citizens and denied basic rights such as the freedom to practice their religion. Denying religious holidays to them only further affirms that the state of Pakistan is actively participating in their subjugation. While this measure is a very small one, it goes a long way in telling the minorities that the state will no longer exclude them as it once did. However, this should only be the start, and the government should also look to reverse the economic imbalance created as a result of the marginalisation faced ever since the partition. Apart from deserved holidays, greater access to healthcare and education, more jobs and a more tolerant society is what the minorities really need. Historically, the subcontinent was once the melting pot for all cultures and faiths, and it is time Pakistan starts to emulate that as well.