By Dr. Jamesh Shera MBE
Recently, the members of the Hindu community have started to join the Pakistan Army; Pakistan has appointed it’s first-ever Hindu officer – Dr KelashGarvada – a Major in the Ministry of Defence.
The distinguished Pakistan Air Force pilots include: Cecil Chaudhry, Peter O Reilly, Martyred Wing Commander Mervyn L Middlecoat, winning Sitara-e-Jurat twice; and many other have won numerous awards for their bravery. Similarly, the Navy has a list of outstanding officers and sailors, prominent among them Rear Admiral Lesley Norman Gavin (Sitara-e-Basalat and Sitara-e- Imtaiz)
The Pakistan Air Force’s foundation was set up by a Catholic Polish officer Air Commodore WładysławJózef Marian Turowicz. Turowicz and 45 of his colleagues opted to move to Pakistan in 1948 on a three-year contract.
Turowicz set up technical institutes in Karachi. He taught and revitalised Pakistan Air Force Academy, where he worked as a chief scientist. He initially led the technical training in the airbase and a part of the Polish specialists in the technical section in Karachi.
In 1952, Turowicz was promoted to the rank of wing commander and then in 1959, to the rank of group captain. In 1960, he became an air commodore and an assistant chief of air staff, in charge of PAF’s Maintenance Branch. In 1966, the Government of Pakistan transferred him to SUPARCO, Pakistan’s national space agency, where he worked there as a chief scientist and an aeronautical engineer. He, along with noted Pakistani theoretical physicist,Dr. Abdus Salam, who later won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1979, met with President Khan where he successfully convinced him of the importance of a space program.
He along with Dr. Salam travelled through to the United States to reach a space-co-operation agreement. He successfully convinced the United States Government to invest and train Pakistan’s scientists in the field of rocket technology.
Turowicz was appointed head of SUPARCO in 1967. As the administrator, he revitalised and initiated the space program as quickly as possible and upgraded Sonmiani Satellite Launch Centre in which he was responsible for installing Flight-Test Control Command, Launch Pad Control System and System Engineering Division.
Turowicz started a project for the fabrication and launch of a Pakistani satellite. As a result, Pakistan mastered the field of rocket technology by the end of the 1970s. He was given several awards over the years including: Sitara-e-Pakistan, Tamgha-i-Pakistan, Sitara-i-Khidmat, Sitara-e-Quaid-e-Azam and Sitara-e-Imtiaz.
Coming to the field of education, the colleges like FC College in Lahore, Murray College in Sialkot, Gordon College in Rawalpindi and Edwardes College in Peshawar, have produced hundreds of thousands of outstanding graduates in every field. The Missionary schools were famous for their high standards of education and nearly all our leaders from Quaid to the present government ministers, started learning their alphabet in those schools.
In the medical arena, at one time the Christian nurses monopolised the profession and helped the medical profession to stand up on its feet in the newly independent republic. One name which comes to mind immediately is the Ruth Pfau, who spent all her life serving the lepers, when nobody else would come near them. This ‘Mother Teresa of Pakistan’ was given a state funeral which was attended by the state dignitaries. The mission hospitals in far flung places of the country were the true pioneers of spreading the 20th century medical benefits to those inhabitants.
Similarly the third pillar of the state – Judiciary- who can forget the service of Chief Justice A R Cornelius, Chief Justice Rana Bhagwan Das, and Justice Patel.
After 70 years of independence, the role of minorities is not generally known to a majority of their compatriots. Unfortunately, some anti-social and mean elements have been instrumental in occasionally perpetrating activities against members of Minorities. There had been sporadic incidents from Gojra to Shanti Nagar, making lives difficult and negating commitment made by the founding father of Pakistan. Alleged kidnappings and forced conversion and reported marriages of the underage Christian girls in Punjab and the Hindu girls in Sindh; the use of inappropriate language and the misuse of the blasphemy laws to settle personal scores or to control of the properties of the minorities, and unequal opportunities for the Minorities; are some of the weaknesses, which make the minorities uneasy and uncomfortable in their own country. These weaknesses have given a reason to the critics of Pakistan to exploit it to the country’s disadvantage.
Despite the odds that the minorities face, they love their country and have continued to serve it in many different ways – the country for which their forefathers rendered ultimate sacrifices during independence movement, contributed to its development in various sectors and always stood by in the country’s thick and thin.
We are happy to note that recently, the Government has taken a few positive and welcome initiatives such as opening the Kartarpur Corridor for the Sikh yatrees and the Kartas Raj temple complex for the Hindu yatrees. Pakistan’s first ever Sikh officer SardarPawan Singh Arora has been posted as the Punjab Governor’s PRO. The Prime Minister Mr Imran Khan, has also made very positive statements about the alleged forced conversions and marriages of non-Muslim girls being against Islam and hence wrong. The government also stood firm against the militant mobs, when Asia Bibi was released by the Supreme Court.
These are the hints that with better education and exposure to the wider world, the green saplings of change are appearing in Pakistani society which will need to be nurtured and sustained, until they become mighty strong trees of toleration and inclusiveness.
I would also like to mention the present Pakistani High Commissioner to the UK, His Excellency Mohammad Nafees Zakaria, who has taken the initiative to keep the Pakistani minorities within the national stream for example, he facilitated the first time ever a meeting of the British missionaries, who had served in Pakistan over the years, at the High Commission. We have found him to be a true representative of all Pakistanis.
It is very clear that the Quaid Azam was committed to developing Pakistan into a democracy with equality of citizens together with guaranteed human rights and civil liberties. Unfortunately, his dream of a tolerant, inclusive and forward looking country was betrayed by those who followed his illustrious career.
Let us go back to the promises of our leader Quaid-e-Azam, and start to live in our great country with the golden principals of equality, fraternity and justice for all, irrespective of our differences. Pakistan is a multicultural bouquet of many religions, languages and cultures, and the differences only add to its beauty.
The need for unity in Pakistan has become even more paramount in view of the recent offensive steps undertaken by the Indian government in Kashmir, unilaterally violating its own agreements with the United Nations, attacking the civilian population and disfranchising a whole nation. At the very time when the Government of India is inflicting horrible pain and suffering on its minorities’ citizens, it also provides a unique opportunity for Pakistan to show an opposite image to the world – the one of religious tolerance and broad mindedness, as envisage by our great leader – Quaid-e-Azam.
The Christian minority in Pakistan and abroad feels the grief and pain of their Kashmiri brothers and sisters,and pledge their solidarity with them just as Dewan Bahadr S P Singha, had assured the Quaid, all those years ago; and we hope that our Muslims compatriots will also echo the pledge of the Quaid that if you do so, we will never forget it.
This statement was endorsed by the UK Pakistani Christian leaders including: Dr Peter David, Councillor Morris Johns, Mr Qamar Rafique, Reverend John Bosco, Bishop Yousaf Nadeem Bhinder, Mr Michael Massey and Mr Samson Javed.
(The author Councillor Dr James Shera MBE, S.Pak (Sitara-e-Pakistan) is former Mayor of Rugby and Freeman of the City of Rugby.)