Pakistan safe haven for minorities: Ijaz Alam Augustine

LAHORE, Dec 29 (APP):Provincial Minister for Human Rights and Minority Rights Ijaz Alam Augustine has said that Pakistan is the safest country for Christians, other minorities and all were enjoying religious freedom and equal rights.

In an interview with APP here on Sunday, he said the minorities were facing worst persecution and were deprived of human rights in India, adding that Indians hurt the feelings of Christians across
the globe when they made fun of ‘hallelujah’ while no such act was possible in Pakistan.

About his achievements, the Minister said Muslim prisoners were granted sentence remission on every eid but this facility was not allowed to the minorities on their religious festivals, adding that he had got the legislation approved after which minority prisoners would get sentence remission on their days
of religious importance.

“Christian prisoners in all Punjab jails will get sentence remission from the coming Easter and Christmas and it would apply to Hindus, Sikhs and others as well”, Augustine claimed.

To a question, Human Rights and Minority Affairs Minister said his priorities for self-aggrandizement of minorities included better higher education, sentence remission, effective control of hate material against minorities, promotion of religious tourism and skill development.

Responding to a query, he said he had managed to get inducted a minority representative in the Punjab Curriculum and Textbook boards to check publication of hate material against minorities, adding that he had increased the number of scholarships for the minority students within a year at the ministry.
About his goals, the Minister said he was more and more focused on educating the minorities through best opportunities in the province, adding that it was only through education that deprivations of
minority members could be overcome.

To a question, he said the ministry was focused on improving infrastructure through development projects through enhanced budget of one billion rupees in minority areas of the province, adding
that past governments never fully utilized the budget for the minorities.

He said Youhanabad was the largest Christian community in Asia and the government had launched a development project with Rs 3000 million for the development of the locality and bring it at par
with others through coordinated efforts of the WASA, LDA and PHA. The minister, to a question, said a grant of rupees 100 million had been allocated for the renovation and beautification of holy
sites of minorities to promote religious tourism in the country, adding the government had plans to promote a Christian site in Taxila where one of Jesus Christ disciples Saint Thomas’ relics are placed at a museum. About effective control of human rights violations, he said the ministry had set a portal through which a complaint can be lodged immediately, adding that he personally led a raid to rescue a girl detained for years by her brotehrs in Mandi Bahauddin.

He said, the enforcement across the province had been made effective and a minor human rights violation was reported in far-flung districts like Rajanpur. The Minister said the European Union (EU) delegation had praised the working of Punjab Human Rights and Minority Affairs Department, adding that his department was playing a vital role in efforts towards the renewal of GSP-Plus status to Pakistan by the European Parliament (EP).

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