Pakistan’s parliament has passed a resolution moved by a Hindu lawmaker seeking holidays on festivals such as Holi, Diwali and Easter though the move is being seen as a cosmetic measure to appease religious minorities.
On Tuesday, Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, an MP from the PML-N elected from a seat reserved for minorities in Tharparkar district of Sindh, presented the resolution which said: “This House is of the opinion that the government should take steps to declare Holi, Diwali and Easter as closed holidays for minorities.”
Vankwani, who is also patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council, was of the view that such an announcement is inevitable for Pakistan’s good image since such holidays are being observed in the US and India.
The resolution, however, took cabinet ministers by surprise. Minister of state for religious affairs Pir Aminul Hasnat Shah was visibly confused when Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq asked him if he agreed with the resolution.
Shah said the interior ministry has the authority to notify such holidays and his ministry has nothing to do with the matter. He was hesitant to give a categorical reply when the Speaker asked him again if he opposed the resolution.
Information minister Pervaiz Rashid came to Shah’s rescue and said minorities could be granted holiday by their employers. Rashid further said he would not oppose the resolution but suggested it should be reconsidered because “Pakistan already has one of the highest rates of public holidays compared to the rest of the world”.
What Rashid did not say was that the facility was already accorded to religious minorities under government rules.
Amarnath Motumal of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan described the resolution as a farce. “We are already given these holidays in the public and private sector,” he said.
Festivals such as Holi and Diwali were official holidays in Pakistan after the country’s independence but they were subsequently made optional. Large-scale celebrations of the festivals became rare after military ruler Zia-ul-Haq adopted his policy of “Islamisation”.