December 17, 2016 5:59:33 pm
Pakistan’s Sindh province will amend the recently-passed Minorities Bill which criminalises forced conversions in the Muslim-majority country, weeks after two hard-line Islamic parties opposed the law by claiming it was part of a conspiracy to make Pakistan a liberal and secular country. Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Nisar Ahmad Khuhro yesterday said the Sindh Criminal Law (Protection of Minorities) Bill, 2015, was sent to the governor for his assent and whether he gives his assent or not, in both the conditions it would be reviewed and amended by the assembly.
Khuhro, who is also the Sindh chapter president of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), said that according to religious teachings, religion could not be changed forcibly, therefore, no Muslim could think contrary to the teachings nor could legislate such a law, Dawn reported today. He said the marriage of a person aged below 18 years was already banned and there was no restriction of the age on change of religion, therefore, it should not be linked with the age of marriage as such this misunderstanding ought to be removed, the report said.
“Forcible conversion to the religion and solemnising wedding under 18 years of age was contrary to the Shariat and constitution and the Sindh assembly has not carried any legislation against Shariat and the constitution but only forcible conversion of religion under 18 years of age and getting married has been declared illegal,” the daily quoted
Khuhro as saying.
The Sindh Assembly last month adopted the bill against forced religious conversions and recommended a five-year jail term for perpetrators and facilitators of forced religious conversions will be handed a three-year sentence. Under the bill, forcibly converting a minor is also a punishable offence. Adults will be given 21 days to consider their decision to convert.
A Hindu lawmaker Dr Ramesh Kumar and civil society members last month criticised two religious political parties for opposing the bill. The Jamaat-i-Islami and the Jamiat Ulema Islam-F were opposing the law, claiming the law is part of a conspiracy to make Pakistan a liberal and secular country. Jammat-ud-Dawah (JuD) chief and Mumbai attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed oppossed the bill on December 5 and threatened to launch a movement against the law.
“We will take other political and religious organisations on board in our movement against this anti-Islam law. We will not remain silent on this controversial law and launch a countrywide movement to force the Sindh government to withdraw this anti-Islam law,” Saeed had said. Cases of forced conversions have regularly been reported from different parts of Sindh including Jacobabad, Tharparkar, Mithi, Umerkot, Kashmore, Kandhkot, Ghotki, Sukkur and Larkana. According to the South Asia Partnership-Pakistan (SAP-PK), at least 1,000 girls mostly Hindus are forcibly converted to Islam in Pakistan every year.
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