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Panel's rejection of anti-forced conversion bill leads to protest by minorities members

14 اکتوبر 2021
Young people from minorities communities are being kidnapped in broad daylight and forcibly converted to Islam, according to the lawmakers. File photo
Young people from minorities communities are being kidnapped in broad daylight and forcibly converted to Islam, according to the lawmakers. File photo

A parliamentary committee in a meeting on Wednesday rejected anti-forced conversion bill which led to protest by lawmakers from minorities communities, according to a Dawn report.

The bill was aimed at protecting minorities from forced religious conversion.

As per the report, Minister of Religious Affairs Noorul Haq Qadri said the "environment is unfavourable" for formulating a law against forced conversions as it could threaten peace in the country and create further problems for minorities.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan said: "We are serious about [addressing] the problem of forced conversions." However, he maintained a law should not be created just to get appreciation from international organizations or non-government organizations; instead it should address the issue.

He further said setting an age limit for conversion of religion is against Islam and the Constitution of Pakistan.

Quoting Law Minister Farogh Naseem, Khan said legislation on the matter was dangerous. "We should not go against Islam as the position of ministries is of little value as they come and go," Khan said quoting Naseem's words.

Jamaat-i-Islami Senator Mushtaq Ahmed also opposed the proposed bill and he denied that forced conversions was even an issue in Pakistan.

"This bill is not restraining forced conversion rather it is forcefully restraining people to convert to Islam," JI senator tweeted.

"This bill is anti-Islam," he said.

During the meeting, the opposition to the bill irked PTI MNA Lal Chand Malhi who said the ministers' remarks gave the impression that forced conversion wasn't an issue in Pakistan.

The minorities are being sidelined and rejecting the bill would make life "living hell" for them, he added.

Malhi claimed the bill was rejected on the instructions of Mian Mithu, who is the pir of Bharchundi Sharif. Mithu is accused of forced conversions of Hindu girls in rural Sindh.

However, Khan accused Malhi of making false and political statements.

The lawmakers from minority communities said young people from their communities were being kidnapped in broad daylight and forcibly converted to Islam. They also lamented that Muslim members of the committe had taken the stance that forced conversion was not a problem in Pakistan.

PTI lawmaker Ramesh Kumar maintained they were not opposing willful conversions. However, many Hindus were promised money and marriages in order to lure them into converting.

"They return home when the other party doesn't fulfill the promise," he said, adding this implied that they did not convert of their own free will.

Kumar further said that the government's stance of opposing the legislation against forced conversion indicated that they were worried about the reaction by elements involved in the problem.

In August clerics had expressed reservations over the bill and called it a conspiracy. They suggested that the government should not fall into the trap of the West by taking it to the parliament.

A meeting chaired by Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) Chairperson Dr Qibla Ayaz reviewed the draft bill and objected to several clauses, including the minimum age of conversion, according to a Dawn report.

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