October 14, 2021
By Rehan Piracha
The Parliamentary Committee on Forced Conversions on October 13, rejected the Ministry of Human Rights’ (MoHR) draft of the forced conversion bill on the recommendations of the minister of Religious and Parliamentary Affairs, said minority members of the committee while speaking to Voicepk.net.
The Parliamentary Committee against forced conversions held a meeting in Islamabad over the objections raised by the religious affairs ministry over the draft bill.
In September, Federal Religious Affairs Minister Pir Noor ul Qadri had announced that his ministry after a month-long review, had raised objections to the condition of minimum age being 18 years, and the conditions of appearing before a judge and a 90-day waiting period for persons converting to another religion listed in the draft bill.
Ministers frustrate PM’s efforts on forced conversion: Malhi
Lal Chand Malhi, a committee member and member of the National Assembly from the ruling Pakistan Tehrik Insaf, called the rejection of the draft bill a ‘black day’ for minorities in the country.
“Two federal ministers Ali Muhammad Khan and Noorul Haq Qadri have wasted Prime Minister Imran Khan’s efforts by opposing the forced conversions draft law in the parliamentary committee,” Malhi told Voicepk.net.
Malhi said the ministers, instead of outrightly rejecting the proposed draft should have brought proposals in place to bring the bill in conformity with the Shariah law.
However, he said monitory legislators would continue to work towards bringing legislation to prevent forced conversions in the country.
“We will continue to raise our voice against this injustice at all forums,” he added.
“Senator Liaqat Khan Tarakai, chairman of the parliamentary committee, rejected the draft bill on the recommendations of Religious Affairs Minister Noorul Haq Qadri and Parliamentary Affairs State Minister Ali Muhammad Khan in the meeting,” Jai Prakash, committee member and member of National Assembly also from the ruling Pakistan Tehrik Insaf party, told Voicepk.net.
‘No law even for conversion in the country’
In the meeting, Jai Prakash said, he had asked both ministers not to totally reject the draft bill on forced conversion and instead suggest recommendations for amendments.
“The parliamentary committee has been working on the proposed legislation for close to 2 years and it was improper to shelve the whole exercise,” he added.
According to the PTI minority MNA, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ali Muhammad Khan told the parliamentary committee that the body had no mandate to legislate on forced conversion. Prakash said he questioned both ministers about the lack of legislation regarding the conversion of non-Muslims to Islam in the country.
“If the word forced conversion is unacceptable at least there has to be a legal way for a person of non-Muslim faith to convert to another religion,” Prakash said.
‘Govt has backtracked on legislation’
Keshoo Mal, a member of the National Assembly from Pakistan Muslim League, said that his fears of the government backtracking over legislation on forced conversion have proven true. He said the draft bill suffered the same fate as the shelving of the construction of a Hindu temple in Islamabad.
“The government had first approved construction of Hindu temple in Islamabad but later buckled to pressure from certain religious quarters,” Mal told Voicepk.net.
Mal said the committee meeting witnessed a verbal clash between PTI minority members and ministers over the draft bill. He said the committee’s chairman did not hold a vote over the draft bill despite six members from the minority communities were in favour of referring the bill to parliament.
In his briefing to the committee members, Pir Noorul Haq Qadri said that the environment is ‘not conducive for legislation regarding forced religious conversion’, adding that minorities living in the country would become more insecure in view of the backlash of any legislation.
Ali Mohammad Khan, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs told the committee in his briefing that the issue of forced conversion was brought to the notice of the Prime Minister who directed the constitution of a special parliamentary committee on the issue. He said the government is serious about forced conversions but the proposed bill is conflicts with Shariah and the Constitution.
Responding to the assertions of the ministers, Malhi said their statements reflected that forced conversions were not an issue in the country. “The minorities of the country are being pushed towards a blind alley,” Malhi told committee members.
There is no official data on forced or voluntary conversion in Pakistan. Human rights organisations and civil society organizations have repeatedly pointed out questionable conversions of Hindu and Christian girls in the country.