ISLAMABAD (APP) - The Pakistan Peoples Party led-government is making utmost efforts for the welfare and uplift of minorities and safeguarding their rights. Minorities in the country, enjoy status equal to Muslim majority and under the articles 20, 21, 25, 26, 27, 28, and 36 of the Constitution the minorities have been given full protection and equal rights to all citizens including minorities without any discrimination of colour, creed, cult, language or gender. During this government, a person belonging to the Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, has been appointed as the Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs by the present elected government. For upkeep of their worship places, burial places and communal properties, small development schemes for all minorities are being executed without discrimination. "During first parliamentary year, 47 such development schemes worth Rs. 33.450 million has been approved for development and welfare of minorities." For expeditious socio-economic uplift of all the minorities financial assistance and scholarship schemes are being executed. "After the completion of one year of the present government, Rs. 19,907,165 has been disbursed among the 5354 needy persons of the minority communities and Rs. 6,201,600 has been distributed among 1360 deserving students of minorities on account of scholarships this year." The present government is extremely sensitive towards protection of minority communities in the country and has taken special steps in this regard. Interfaith Harmony Committees have been constituted at district level throughout the country to change the mindset of people and to bridge the gap among different faiths. "An Inter-faith Complex is being planned in Islamabad which will be major initiative towards creation of tolerance amongst the religions and harmony amongst the various creeds in society. It would ultimately promote peace in society." To mainstream the minorities, ten religious festivals of the minorities are celebrated officially in the country. During the year, the ministry has celebrated Besakhi, Dewali, Eid-i-Rizwan, Chelumjusht, Nauroze, Christmas festivals of Sikh, Hindu, Bahai, Kalash, Parsi and Christian Communities respectively. The total outlay for the ministry of minorities which was never more than Rs. 75 million has been enhanced to Rs. 166 million in the current financial year. The government has provided proportional representation to the minorities in the seats in National and Provincial Assemblies. Thus, in addition to ten reserved seats in the National Assembly, the minorities candidates can also contest on the open seats which was not so in all earlier elections from 1985 todate.