In a event called “One land, one nation, one flag” hosted at the Aiwan-e-Sadar in Islamabad, government officials and elected parliamentarians celebrated Minority Day in honour of our 3 million non-Muslim population. The event was held to commemorate Quaid-i-Azam’s address to the legislative assembly on Aug 11, 1947 where he had stated that all citizens were free to go to their worship places without distinction of their religions or faiths.

During the event, Prime Minister Imran Khan emphasised the need for empowerment of our minority populations and denounced unequal treatment, reflecting that the Prophet (PBUH) himself had given minorities’ religious freedom. Noting that the Quran orders that there be no compulsion in religion, Khan harshly condemned forceful religious conversions. Several other government ministers also echoed the sentiment and spoke in favour of peace and harmony.

Most relevantly, government ministers laid out the achievements made with respect to minorities’ rights and relations in their one year of government. Federal Minister for Religious Affairs and Inter-faith Harmony Pir Noorul Haq Qadri said that for the last one year, the ministry had taken special steps to mark holy events of all faiths, including Christmas, Holi, Dewali, Besakhi, and others. More impactful, the Prime Minister pointed out the first proper breakthrough in regards to minority relations that the government has made, by taking steps to facilitate the Sikh community through Kartarpur Corridor, which will be opened for the 550th birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak in November.

The measures taken above are praiseworthy initiatives of the government, and it is heartening that in a time of division and polarisation, government officials hosted an event in honour of minorities and spoke out for their rights. Yet just platitudes of equality and events hosted is not enough- it cannot be denied that there is a long way to go before Pakistan becomes a truly tolerant and welcoming country for minorities. The event should also have mentioned the plethora of problems that minorities communities go through, and the many concrete steps that the government needs to take to counter them. There are systematic problems which turn a blind eye to discrimination and oppression towards minorities, which can be solved through parliamentarians having the courage to enact legal reforms. Bills on interfaith marriages, the severe issues with the blasphemy law, government janitorial positions which stereotype and degrade the Christian community- these are just some of the problems which wait for government action. It needs to be brave enough up to take initiative on these issues.