Pakistan safest country for minorities: Augustine

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Punjab Minister for Human Rights and Minorities Affairs (HR&MA) Ijaz Alam Augustine Sunday said Pakistan was the safest country for minorities and all enjoyed religious freedom and equal rights here.
In an interview with APP, he said the Nankana Sahib incident was a conspiracy by the anti-Pakistan elements, adding the government stood by the Sikh community.
“All culprits of the Nankana Sahib incident would be taken to task,” he responded.
To a query, the minister said the minorities were faced with the 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 that Muslim prisoners were granted sentence remission on every Eid but the facility was not allowed to the minorities on their religious festivals, adding that he got the legislation approved after which minority prisoners would get sentence remission on their days of religious importance.
“Christian prisoners in jails across Punjab will get sentence remission from the upcoming Easter and Christmas and it would apply to Hindus, Sikhs and others as well,” Augustine claimed.
To a question, the 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 the 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 the past governments never fully utilised the budget for the minorities.
He said Youhanabad is the largest Christian community in Asia and the government had launched a development project with Rs 3,000 million for development of the locality and bring it at par with others through coordinated efforts of Wasa, LDA and PHA.—APP