October 12, 2021
In a joint declaration, civil society activists from Lahore have demanded the protection of minorities in the country, especially underage girls – from forced conversions and marriages.
The Joint Action Committee for People’s Rights (JAC) – around 37 human rights groups – have also drafted an open letter urging the Prime Minister to take legal as well as administrative measures to protect minorities
Criminal elements in Punjab and Sindh are operating with impunity in abductions, rapes and forced marriages of non-Muslim girls.
“In the disposal of your responsibility towards protecting minorities’ human rights, we urge you to consider the following measures to curb forced conversions in the country: that the report of the Parliamentary Committee to Protect Minorities from Forced Conversions be made public, along with the draft bill that was prepared by the Ministry of Human Rights; and also the bill be approved for initiating the legislation process in the parliament as early as possible.
The letter was signed by Irfan Mufti, Peter Jacob, Muhammad Tahseen, Hina Jilani, Rubina Jamil, Syeda Ghulam Fatima, Mehar Safdar, Farooq Tariq and Bushra Khaliq.
The communication also refers to the rights of religious minorities enshrined in the constitution of Pakistan.
JAC members expressed serious concern over statements by the Minister for Religious Affairs on the draft bill to curb forced conversions, adding that such statements are not only against the spirit of the constitution, and the judgments of the Supreme Court but are also violate the stand taken by the Prime Minister against forced conversion of minority groups in Pakistan.
“We find it distressing that the contradictory statements made by the
Ministry of Religious Affairs,” said Irfan Mufti, the official spokesperson of JAC.
“These contradictions are in sheer violation with the constitutional guarantee of equality of citizens, non-discrimination and religious freedom, moreover the statements display an aberration from Article 20 of the constitution as interpreted by the Supreme Court in the famous judgment in SMC No. 1 of 2014.”