Muslim-majority Pakistan's parliament has adopted a resolution allowing public holidays for festivals of minority religions. There will be holidays for the Hindu festivals of Holi and Diwali and for Easter.
The resolution is the first step to enable the government to declare the public holidays. Initiated by Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, a Hindu lawmaker from the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), the resolution read: "This house is of the opinion that government should take steps to declare Holi, Diwali and Easter as closed holidays for minorities."
If ratified by the interior ministry, this will be the first time in Pakistan's independent history, the state will grant public holidays for Holi, Diwali and Easter. The move is significant in the wake of increasing communal persecution and social isolation of religious minorities in the country, officially an Islamic nation.
Vankwani, who is also the chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council, said such holidays are necessary to boost "Pakistan's image" abroad and cited Muslim holidays like Eid and Muharram which are marked in the US and India.
When Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq questioned Minister of State for Religious Affairs Pir Aminul Hasnat Shah whether he agreed with the resolution, he looked visibly perplexed as the move took the government benches by surprise. Without answering, he lobbed the ball in the interior ministry's court.
"Pakistan already has one of the highest rates of public holidays compared to the rest of the world," interjected Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid during the discussion. He, however, clarified there was no objection to declaring public holidays for festivals of minorities.