Sindh government orders review of the bill against forced conversions

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Sindh government has directed a review of the bill on forced conversions, the bill was shown a green light when it was passed as the Sindh Criminal Law (Protection of Minorities) Bill, 2015. Following the law being passed last month, PPP announced that it will review the bill. The bill is yet to be signed by the Governor of Sindh Saeeduz Zaman, which is a legal formality. Later on it was disclosed that the lawmakers involved in chalking out the bill are now imperiled.

Sindh government

Details reveal that at Sindh Assembly secretariat has sought police protection for at least thirteen MPAs and a bureaucrat. The Sindh Criminal Law (Protection of Minorities) Bill was proposed a year ago by MPA Nand Kumar Goklani, who hails from Hindu community. After passing the law, Sindh’s legislature became the first assembly to pass such law.

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“Every person has the right to practice their religion and beliefs. We must ensure that no one is forced to change their religion due to physical or mental pressure on them. We now have a law to help stop this practice. It is a historical move,” MPA Goklani said. He further explained that the legislation calls for a minimum sentence of five years and maximum of life imprisonment for those found guilty of committing this offence.

The bill mandates a 21-day period for the adults, to consider their decision to convert. At the same time the bill outlaws minors choosing another religion out of their free will. “Forced conversion is an abhorrent and violent offence and an issue that has become prevalent across Sindh [that] must be eliminated by recognizing the importance of tolerance, peace and respect for all religions and persons, irrespective of their religion. It is necessary to criminalize forced conversions and provide protection for those who are victims of this abhorrent practice,” reads the bill.

Data extracted from a research done by a local NGO Auraat Foundation revealed that every year about one thousand minorities’ girls are abducted and sexually assaulted , harassed and threatened to convert to Islam. The report further delineated that the unfortunate victims included seven hundred Christian women who are forced to embrace Islam every year, while three hundred Hindu girls face the brunt of the ferocity. In this regard Sindh province had become the hotbed of forced conversions of Hindu girls while Punjab had become the epicenter of forced conversions of Christian girls.

After the bill was passed by the Sindh government, Pakistan Christian Congress President Dr. Nazir Bhatti called upon Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif to move a similar bill in the National Assembly so that the scourge of forced conversions may be done away with once for all. He demanded that the Prime Minister must take efficacious steps to address the growing insecurities of the non-Muslim Pakistanis.

Christians called for similar anti-forced religious conversions law in other provinces at the same time as they appreciated the efforts of the Sindh lawmakers to curb the dilemma of the minorities’ girls in the province. On the other hand, religious parties posed serious opposition to the bill. In a press conference, Jamaat-i-Islami Ameer Siraj-ul-Haq had expressed his opinion about the new law adopted by the Sindh Assembly.

JI Chief said that the law against forced conversions is un-Islamic. He had further demanded that the Sindh Assembly must immediately annul the law and announced that he is planning to meet Asif Ali Zardari in person in order to bring the topic under discussion.