Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif today warned against the forced conversion and destruction of worship places of other religions, describing them as "crime in Islam" as he greeted the Hindu community of his country on the occasion of Holi festival.
"Forced conversions are considered a criminal practice according to our religious teachings," he said.
Addressing a function in Karachi to celebrate the Holi festival with the Hindu community, he insisted that it was not anyone's job to decide who will go to hell or heaven, but to make Pakistan a heaven on earth.
Sharif said his foremost duty as a ruler is to serve followers of all religions and not one in particular.
"God will not ask a ruler what he did for followers of a certain religion," said Nawaz. "He will ask people such as me: what did we do for God's creation?"
In his inclusive message to minorities, Sharif said "no one can force others to adopt a certain religion" in Pakistan and greeted the gathering with 'Happy Holi'.
"Islam gives importance to every human being regardless of his caste, creed or religion and I say it clearly that forcing anyone to convert his religion is a crime and it is our duty to protect the worship places of the minorities in Pakistan," Sharif told the gathering.
"Some people wear a turban. Some wear a chogha. Others wear a suit and tie, and some wear shalwar kameez."
"These are all creations of God," the Premier added. "And that's fine. This is a freedom given to us by God. Who are we to take it away?"
Leading members of the Hindu community and minority lawmakers attended the function where the prime minister insisted that in Pakistan the fight was between terrorists and those who wanted to see the country progress.
"There is no fight in Pakistan over religion. If there is any fight it is with these terrorists and miscreants who use religion to mislead people and kill innocent people and don’t want to see this country develop or prosper," he said.
Sharif admitted that in the past some miscreants had attempted to create divisions on the basis of religion but insisted that Pakistan was created where everyone was free to practice his religion and go to his worship place.
"Pakistan didn't come into existence to be against any religion. It is wrong to consider any religion inferior. I want to see a Pakistan where there are equal opportunities for every person of any religion to progress and make a good life for himself and his family. And there is peace and protection for everyone," the prime minister said.
The Hindu community has constantly complained about their people in the rural areas being forced to convert to Islam and their women being kidnapped and forcibly converted.
The premier noted that since 2013 the law and order situation had improved in Karachi and other parts of Sindh and there had been a marked decrease in cases of Hindu traders and businessmen being kidnapped for ransom.
"Pakistan has the best future in Asia but for that we need to ensure every citizen is given equal opportunities and equal rights no matter what is his religion or belief."
The Hindu community across Pakistan celebrated the Holi festival with fervor and enthusiasm.
In Karachi, the functions were held all over the city and Sharif said he was happy to see the celebrations in every nook and corner of Karachi without any hinderance.
In Punjab's capital Lahore, people from the Hindu community smear each others faces with colour.
In Hangu district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, bordering Kurram and Aurakzai tribal agencies, the community celebratedHoli with great pomp and show. People threw colors on each other and later cut a cake and shared the joy.
Sharif also announced 500 million rupees for the welfare of the Hindu community.
(With PTI inputs)