Zahid Hussain Khan, Islamabad
Updated: September 23, 2021 07:33 AM GMT
Minority groups hold a news conference in Islamabad on Sept. 22. (Photo supplied)
An alliance of minority rights groups is to launch a movement in Pakistan to oppose forced religious conversion of minor minority girls and to promote an anti-conversion bill.
Lala Robin Daniel, chairman of the National Minorities Alliance of Pakistan, condemned the government’s decision to forward the bill to the Religious Affairs Ministry for review.
“The state of minorities in Pakistan is dismal. The promises made by the constitution to every citizen of Pakistan are being negated by the state itself,” Daniel told a news conference in Islamabad on Sept. 22.
“The constitution guarantees equality of status. One particular group has rights but the other, which is called a minority, remains deprived of its rights after 75 years.
“The bill should never have been forwarded to the Religious Affairs Ministry. It is a matter of human rights. It is a matter of minority rights. The bill should have been sent to the cabinet for approval and from there it should have been taken up by the parliament.
“We all non-Muslim citizens of Pakistan condemn the ministry for rejecting the bill. The bill has been rejected by the mindset which opposed the creation of Pakistan. And those who supported it are being penalized by the state.”
After objections from clerics about setting an age limit for religious conversion, the ministry then forwarded the bill to the Council of Islamic Ideology
Tahira Anjum, president of the Working Group on Minority Issues, announced the minority caucus would start a movement in Pakistan to force the government to legislate against forced conversion.
“We have already been raising the issue at every forum. But we will not launch a movement and lay down our lives to stop the forced conversion of Christian and other minority girls,” she said.
The draft of the Prohibition of Forced Conversion Act, 2021, was prepared by the Ministry of Human Rights and sent to the Religious Affairs Ministry for debate last month.
The ministry invited Islamic clerics and scholars to discuss the proposed legislation. After objections from clerics about setting an age limit for religious conversion, the ministry then forwarded the bill to the Council of Islamic Ideology, a government body, for review.
According to reports, the bill has been held in abeyance after the council rejected it and sent it back to the Religious Affairs Ministry.
The council has argued that there is no age limit for conversion in Islam. The bill contains a clause that specifies a certain age to embrace any religion.
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