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War no solution to terrorism: Zardari

23 February, 2013

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ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari on Friday called for unity and harmony among the people to address the challenges of extremism and terrorism and stressed that war was no solution to terrorism.

Addressing the concluding session of the national conference on interfaith harmony, titled "Living together with diversity – Interfaith and inter-cultural dialogue", which was organised by the Ministry of National Harmony at the Presidency, Zardari said there was a need to adopt the approach of peace and reconciliation to eliminate the menace of extremism and terrorism. Among others the session was attended by PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.

The president said he had been pleading with the world that the way the issue of terrorism was being addressed would not lead to success. "We believe in tolerant Islam and have to counter those who believe in hate, with peaceful efforts," he stated. Referring to the fight against terror in Afghanistan, the president said more than three decades of war in the country could not bring peace and Pakistan was the worst affected by turmoil in Afghanistan. He said there was a time when no one in Pakistan could think of blowing themselves up as a bomber, as Islam was against suicide.

Zardari said people at that time lived in peace and harmony and there were no sectarian issues, but then global politics changed the situation and religion was used as a weapon of war. While emphasising on the urgent need for removing distrust among the followers of different religions the president said, "We all must work together to prove wrong those who predict clash of civilisations." He said the Ministry of National Harmony has been mandated to actively engage in dialogue with scholars and leaders of all faiths.

Such a dialogue, he continued, was necessary to remove misunderstandings which are the root cause of extremism. Spokesperson to president quoted him as saying that "we are aware of the misuse of blasphemy law against minorities by vested interests." He said, "We will not permit the misuse of any law against vulnerable groups including the minorities." "I take this opportunity to call upon our religious scholars from all schools of thought to get together and consider ways and means of how to stop the misuse of blasphemy law," the president said.

Speaking on the occasion, Adviser to Prime Minister on National Harmony Dr Paul Bhatti said since its inception in 2011, the Ministry of National Harmony took several important steps to promote harmony and interfaith dialogue. He said more than 4,000 scholarships had been given to students hailing from poor families and seats for minorities had been increased in national and provincial assemblies.

Dr Bhatti said no religion taught violence or extremism. "We should live together peacefully as citizens of Pakistan as envisioned by the Quaid-e-Azam," he stressed. Retired chief justice Rana Bhagwan Das, addressing the conference, said the challenge of extremism and terrorism could be addressed through unity and tolerance. He said the country was passing through a critical phase and there was a need to take practical steps to promote interfaith harmony. Ruet-e-Hilal Committee Chairman Central Mufti Muneebur Rehman read out the declaration of the conference that called for establishing "National Council for Interfaith Harmony" consisting of representatives from different faiths.

The conference also recommended formation of committees at local level to promote national harmony. It also recommended stopping the use of the word 'minorities' replacing it with some appropriate word like non-Muslim Pakistanis. The conference recommended encouragement of interfaith dialogue and steps to be taken by the international community to address root causes of terrorism. It condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and emphasised that terrorism should not be attributed to a particular group, nation or religion. A copy of the declaration was presented to the president on the occasion.

End.

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