6 Nov 2022
LAHORE: Speaking in the session ‘Mainstreaming Radicalism: Legitimizing Extremists – Impact on Minorities’ at the Asma Jahangir Conference 2022, minority legislators and representatives of minority communities have called on the government to end forced conversions as well as the disenfranchisement of the scheduled castes in Pakistan.
The speakers resolved that the disenfranchisement of the scheduled castes and forced religious conversions must stop in the country. They held that the minimum age of marriage should be 18, and proposed that it should also be the minimum age for free will conversion.
The panel also resolved that the Evacuee Property Trust Board (EPTB) must be devolved as per the 18th Amendment and that it should be headed by a member of the minority community.
Harris Khalique, Secretary-General of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, moderated the session titled ‘Mainstreaming Radicalism: Legitimizing Extremists – Impact on Minorities’. Minority members of Punjab Assembly from Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Ramesh Singh Arora and Tahir Khalil Sindhu, Qamar Suleman, representative of the Ahmadiyya Community, Sarwan Kumar Bhil, representative of the Bhil Community and Sabahat Rizvi, an advocate of the Supreme Court, were other distinguished speakers in the session.
Referring to Quaid-e-Azam’s speech on August 11, 1947, MPA Tahir Khalil Sindhu said Jinnah had a secular approach and intended to establish such a State where all minorities had equal rights. “Jinnah included representatives of all minorities in his cabinet but after his death, our great nation lost its path,” he added.
MPA Ramesh Singh Arora pointed out that all minority communities including Sikh, Christian, and Hindu, were calling for legislation on personal law based on their faith in the country. “Pakistan was the first country to have passed a Sikh Marriage Act but unfortunately despite the lapse of several years, the law’s rules of procedure have not been framed for its implementation,” he added.
Qamar Suleman said extremism was not being legitimised but rather promoted in the country. “We don’t know up till now who is our enemy and keep on fighting one another,” he said. The government and legislators seemed either helpless or supportive of extremism, he added.
Sarwan Kumar Bhil spoke about how young girls were being abducted and forcibly converted, adding that girls from minority communities are between the ages of 12 to 15 years. “This is happening in Sindh despite the enforcement of a law against child marriages in the province,” he said. Sarwan Kumar said that it was imperative that the age of free will conversion should be set at 16 years. “Sindh police is not enforcing the Sindh Marriage Act because of the influence of local feudal lords, he added.
Sabahat Rizvi said political parties used religion in order to blackmail and silence the people. “The root cause of radicalism lies in our education system,” she said.