Rawalpindi - Endorsing the steps being taken by the government with regard to the Kashmir issue, especially after India revoked Article 370 of its constitution on August 5, Bishop of Islamabad-Rawalpindi, Archbishop Dr Joseph Arshad said that Pakistan should fight the case of people of Jammu and Kashmir at all available forums.

In an exclusive interview with The Nation, he said that the unilateral decision of revoking Article 370 by India was illegal and must be reversed. “Such decisions lead to conflicts and destruction,” he feared. He endorsed the steps being taken by the government, saying it should fight its case on Kashmir with full spirit. “We have already approached the international bodies over the issue… it is their duty now to come up to the expectations of the Kashmiri people which is a just demand,” he said.

Indian government had on August 5 revoked Article 370 and subsequently the special status accorded to Indian-administered Kashmir in its constitution, the most far-reaching political move on the disputed region in nearly 70 years. A presidential decree issued on August 5 revoked Article 370 of India’s constitution that guaranteed special rights to the Muslim-majority state, including the right to its own constitution and autonomy to make laws on all matters except defence, communications and foreign affairs.

The archbishop feared that India and Pakistan both are atomic powers and the region cannot afford that both the armies come face to face to each other. He appealed to the United Nations to find out a peaceful solution to the Kashmir issue. “The international bodies must play their role to deescalate tension in the region and find a peaceful solution to the issue,” he said.

Extending support on behalf of Christian community to the government’s decisions, Dr Joseph Arshad said that the people of Pakistan were united in their stance, voice and demand when it comes to the Kashmir issue. “We are united. India should restore status of the valley which was before August 5, 2019. Millions of Kashmiris have already been martyred and the region cannot afford further instability”, he said and added the Christian community stands with the Kashmiri people in particular and the government and people of Pakistan in general when it comes to government’s actions viz-a-viz Kashmir issue. He was of the view that in the presence of United Nations office, there is no other solution to the issue but implementation on the UN resolutions.

Commenting on the recent attack on Churches in Sri Lanka, Dr Joseph Arshad termed it an incident worth condemnable. He believed that no one has right to take life of another person. “Human being first… We preach peace and humanity and believe that education can change the mindset of the people behind such incidents,” he viewed.

Coming to the religious intolerance in the society, Dr Joseph Arshad said that the Christian community has been facing discrimination in the society. However, he hoped that the incumbent government like their predecessors has been undertaking efforts to overcome the problem. “The Christian community is targeted in case any tussle between the people of the two religions. They [Christians] are even killed,” he lamented. He said every government used to give hope to the Christian community as far as the issues faced by them are concerned and hoped that the government will do the needful for resolving their issues.

To a question that if he would like to compare the level of religious intolerance in India and Pakistan, the Archbishop said that there is no need for the comparison and added “Rather we should undertake efforts to put our own house in order.” To another question whether he was satisfied with the government’s steps for implementation on job quota for the minorities, Dr. Joseph Arshad said the basic issue lies at the higher education level. “When we don’t have qualified people from our community to fill quota for the jobs, the rest becomes meaningless for us. The government should ensure better education for the minorities who otherwise are not in a position to send their children to better educational institutions”, he demanded. To a question, he said that the government has consulted the community over legislation regarding issues of marriage and divorce in Christian community.

Dr Arshad also appealed to the youth to come forward and promote harmony among religions and negate religious intolerance. “They must condemn the forces which are opposed to national development in any way,” he concluded.