. . . . . .  
Contribution to GEMS AND JEWELS: THE RELIGIONS OF PAKISTAN by Dr Amineh Hoti, Virtual Book Launch, Arts Council of Pakistan, 29 June 2021.


I am deepy grateful to Dr Amineh Hoti and to Isphaniyar Bhandara for their generous invitation to speak at this virtual book launch of Gems & Jewels.


Such a book, like any precious jewel, is invaluable for a number of reasons.

One is its clarity. Dr Hoti’s text is clear, concise and luminous in its intent and meaning.

The second is its colour. Topical has done a superb job in presenting the various facets inherent in the book’s numerous illustrations.

The third is its rarity. Books such as these are, like rare gemstones, hard to find.


The tradition in Pakistan has been for religionists to write about themselves, not about other religions. Dr Hoti is in that sense unique. She writes about ALL religions that are, or were once extant, in this part of the subcontinent.

For example, her book begins with Jainism. The number of practising Sitambara or even less so Digambara or sky-clad is negligible. Three recent researchers, working in 2019, on ‘Jain History, Art and Architecture in Pakistan’ were hard-pressed to find any material on Jains. They mention a site of Murti near Chakwal, Jiana art pieces have been discovered. The only place one can see complete images today of the Jain tirthankaras and carvings retrieved from a Jain temple in Gujranwala are in the Lahore Museum.

Buddhism, like the religion of Ancient Pharaohs in Egypt, is petrified in our history. Today, we know of Buddha and the Theravada and Mahayana branches of Buddhism through statuary and stupas, excavated in sites such as Taxila, Takht-Bahi and Swat.

Buddhist sacred texts lie unread in fragile manuscripts, disintegrating in the Punjab University Library, Lahore.

In 2017, the number of Buddhist voters was stated to be 1,884, and they were mostly concentrated in Sindh and Punjab.  That is less than the membership of either the Sindh Club in Karachi or the Punjab Club at Lahore.


If you are a Pakistani Hindu, you stand a better chance of survival. Today, Hindus constitute between 2 and 3 % of our population, concentrated primarily in the south.

The number of Christian churches and cathedrals across the country outnumber the number of Sikh shrines and gurdwaras, but they cannot compete with them for spiritual significance. Sikhism was born in the Punjab. Its Vaticans are in Pakistani Punjab. Christianity was imported fully-formed from abroad. 

Zoroasterians or Pasrees too came from abroad. Today, there are less than 1,500 Parsees left in Pakistan. Yet, it is a tribute to their patriotism that the sponsor of this book on the religions of Pakistan should be a practitioner of that unique faith - Mr Isphanyar Bhandara. Such generosity is as rare as the Koh-i-Noor diamond itself. 

Dr Hoti’s book is extensively researched and beautifully produced. I am sure it will go into a number of editions. Since this is a book on religion, and religion is predicated on truth, I know that Dr Hoti will forgive me if I suggest that, future editions should contain a more judicious selection of photographs, more say of the devotees of each religion and their rituals as practised today. 

Let me conclude by reminding every Pakistani that the minorities, even as they dwindle, still have a place in our country. They have an inalienable place in our national flag. Should I remind my compatriots that the white vertical band in our national flag represents our minority communities? 

Too many Pakistanis forgot this. They are so comfortable in the overwhelming expanse of Muslim green.

Quaid-e-Azam had the vision to accommodate that distinction. He was married to a Parsee and respected difference. It is time, as Dr Hoti reminds us through her book, that every Pakistani should see his or her own God in another human being.



29 June 2021 


30 June 2021
All Speeches
Latest Books :: Latest Articles :: Latest SPEECHES :: Latest POEMS