Pakistan takes one step forward – albeit reluctantly. On Tuesday the Government ruled that annual festivals of minority communities, specifically Holi, Dewali and Easter will be considered national holidays. This resolution was put forward by Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, an MNA from Pakistan Muslim league Nawaz. Vankwani, who is also the chief of Pakistan Hindu council stated the following in his resolution: “The house is of the opinion that the government should take steps to declare Holi, Diwali and Easter as closed holidays for minorities.” Vankwani suggested that this move will help build a positive image of Pakistan as India and United States are known for granting holidays on Eid.
The resolution took the cabinet ministers by surprise. Pir Aminul Hasnat Shah, the Minister of State Affairs seemed baffled when Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq asked if he was in agreement with this resolution. Instead of giving a direct answer he stated that the interior ministry has the authority notify such holidays but actually has nothing to do with it. Ignoring evasive replies the Speaker insisted upon Hasnat’s opinion on the resolution at which point he gave a defeated reply and said “As you wish.” Upon being questioned later, the Parliamentary Secretary for Interior Mariyyum Aurangzeb stated that they would not oppose the resolution that has now been passed.
The resolution gives voice to the minorities in Pakistan, it forces the government and the public at large to recognize that they do exist therefore the passing of it is great news. There is a fact however that we need to realize – there is a huge distinction in the passing of a law and in the acceptance of that law. The passing of it shows progression on the surface of things however how the government and the public come to terms with it demonstrates how accepting we are as a nation. Why is it that when we take one step forward, we also have to take ten steps backward. When something as simple and as straight forward as the Women’s protection act was recently passed, it instigated confusion and even protest from major groups that demanded that it be over turned. On the other side the supporters of this act questioned how successful the government will be in actually implementing it.
Laws are hardly followed here, we all know that. The point here is that when finally someone such as Vankwani stands up and insists on something as simple as giving the minorities a national holiday on the day of their festivals- a right they should have had a long time ago, it incites confusion from the cabinet because of not only their own biases but also because they know that the nation as a whole is not accepting. They have to be reluctant in giving people their rights because there are masses who do not allow it. In recent times, Pakistan is surely progressing. We need to remove our reluctance from this progression and celebrate change instead of being afraid of it.