Islamabad: Two bills anent religious minorities under discussion in the Parliament

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Pakistani Parliament discusses two bills relating to non-Muslims – these two bills include a bill relating to establishment of a Minorities’ rights commission, other bill related to protection of religious minorities in the country.

Religious minorities rights in Pakistan

The bill relating to establishment of minorities’ rights commission harbors demand for establishment of a special “Pakistan Minority Rights Commission.” The proposed bill proffers creation of an independent body the Minority Rights Commission – that will be assigned with the task to maintain veneration for human rights. The bill proposes that the commission would consist of 11 members hailing from different religions and ethnic groups, including members representing the Muslim majority.

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The other bill brought under discussion was the “Law for the protection of minorities 2016,” which will be addressing the burning issues of forced conversions. Under this law, forced conversions will be counted as criminal offense. Nonetheless, owing to the sensitive nature of this issue, it involves complexity. This bill proposes that a minor will not be legitimately eligible to change religion before the age of 18.

While remarking in this regard, Peter Jacob – President of an NGO “Centre for Social Justice,” says that the proposed minimum age limit for a minor to legally convert to another religion is basically “respecting freedom of religion and the child’s interest.” The law would also be useful to tackle with the scourge of abductions, sexual assaults and forced conversions of Christian and Hindu underage girls.

“The bill is therefore a positive development,’ he says. He emphasized that a Supreme Court’s ruling dating back to June 2014, government was directed the government to form a commission that could observe the deference for the rights of religious minorities in the countries.

“We hope that the government takes advantage of this opportunity for a quick approval of these two bills, to fulfill the country’s resolute steps forward to counter the existing discrimination in Pakistani society on the basis of religion,” he said.