LAHORE - Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Saturday said some misdirected people were out to create chaos in the county and vowed his government would check the way of those who were promoting religious hatred.

Addressing a ceremony held in connection with Christmas celebrations at the Governor’s House here, the prime minister said, “The prevailing crises in Pakistan have hit us equally. Terrorism has not affected the believers of any particular religion. Poverty does not strike any particular religion and so is illiteracy.”

The prime minister recalled terrorist attacks on churches and said the attackers had no regard for churches or mosques. He was sure the government would not allow these elements to tarnish image of the country through their activities. He said: “Every faith preaches peace while belief in all the divine books is an essential article of faith in Islam. We all have to join hands to counter those spreading hatred on the basis of faith.” The prime minister said the government was ensuring availability of equal opportunities to the citizens regardless of their religious affiliations.

The event was attended by Punjab Governor Chaudhry Sarwar, Federal Minister for Ports and Shipping Senator Kamran Michael, Punjab Minister for Human Rights and Minorities Tahir Khalil Sindhu, Bishop of Lahore Irfan Jamil, Archbishop of Roman Catholic Church Sebastian Shaw and a large number of Christians, Sikhs, Hindus, Parsis and Muslims.

The prime minister congratulated the Christian community ahead of X-mas celebrations. He said the government had recently launched Rs 100 billion loan scheme for youngsters in which the religious discrimination had been negated strictly. “I call upon Christian, Hindu and Sikh youth to benefit from this scheme confidently and support their families,” he said, adding the Punjab government had also allocated Rs 200 million for the uplift of non-Muslim communities besides specifying Rs 150 million to grant scholarships to deserving students of the minorities.

Nawaz said the Muslims also had faith in Hazrat Essa (AS) as the prophet of Allah Almighty and the Muslims’ belief could not be completed until and unless they believed in all the holy books and all the prophets.

The prime minister said that exploitation of religion created hatred among followers of various faiths that ultimately disturbed social peace, adding that a handful of elements were hell-bent upon spreading religious hatred and creating sectarianism by exploiting religion and, unfortunately, such elements also existed in Pakistan.

“The elements attacking churches and mosques and other worship places do not have respect for holy places. We must have to obstruct the way of the elements by forging unity in our ranks and promoting interfaith harmony,” he maintained.

He said the birth of Hazrat Essa (AS) was a clear message of peace and security for humanity and his teachings were a beacon of light that enlightened the world. “Islam also advocates love, peace, harmony, fraternity and tolerance,” he said, asserting that interfaith harmony could be promoted by taking forward religious commonalities.

The prime minister said that Christians and other minorities had been playing an active role in the development of Pakistan and prosperity of the people since its inception.

“The Constitution of Pakistan grants equal opportunities to the minorities living in Pakistan,” he said and cited that Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and the Pakistan Resolution also emphasised equal rights to minorities.

The prime minister said the PML-N government was formulating and implementing policies to ensure equal rights to all citizens irrespective of their colour, caste and creed.

At the end, the prime minister along with other distinguished guests cut a Christmas cake.