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LAHORE: Special Representative to the Prime Minister on Interfaith Harmony and Middle East Hafiz Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi on Sunday said that Islam is a religion of peace and Muslims believe in respecting humanity.

He warned that no one will be allowed to harm any minority group in the name of religion in Pakistan. Addressing a press conference at the Punjab Institute of Quran and Seerat Studies here, he said that the Interfaith Harmony Council and Muttahida Ulema Board (MUB) held a meeting at the centre on Sunday in which all members expressed their satisfaction over the religious freedom in Pakistan.

Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi said that whenever minority communities faced some issue, the MUB always tried to solve it in consultation with all stakeholders, adding that around 127 cases of alleged forcible marriages and conversion of religion, etc., were presented before the MUB in 2020 and all of those were resolved amicably.

He said that Islam strictly prohibits forced marriages and forced conversions, adding no Muslim could think of going against the teachings of Islam. He said there was no concept of forced marriages or conversion in our religion.

Ashrafi said that a 16-member committee including Sikh, Hindu and Christian members had been formed under his supervision to settle the interfaith violence issues and “We will also meet leaders of all religions to settle their issues related to majority community across Pakistan”. He said that on December 4, the first official meeting of the committee would be held in Lahore.

He said that at the MUB platform, 113 cases of minority communities were resolve during the last years. He said that it was found during the consultations that domestic violence in most cases had forced people to take such steps [conversion and marriages]. There were various other reasons also, but religion had nothing to do with those incidents, he added.

It was the responsibility of the majority community, Muslims, to take care of the rights of minorities and “we are committed to ensuring protection of the rights of minorities in the country”, Ashrafi said.

The PM’s representative said that the leadership of all religious schools of thought in Pakistan was united that the rights of minorities would be protected at all levels.

Ashrafi said that more than 200 children had been murdered in India and more than 150 mosques demolished there, but the US designated Pakistan as a country of particular concern (CPC). It was totally unjustified, he added. He said it seems that the US report was based on mere assumptions, adding that ulema had rejected the US biased assessment.

He said the young generation must come to the forefront to play their role in eradicating extremism, terrorism, dowry rituals and for spreading the moderate message of Islam. He said conspiracies were being hatched to spread anarchy in Pakistan through fanning sectarian violence and sowing seeds of hatred against Pakistan’s security institutions.

To a question, he said “we are thankful the government and people of Saudi Arabia for extending help to Pakistan in the shape of State Bank of Pakistan deposits and provision of oil on deferred payments”.

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