Punjab government opposes recommendations to stop forced conversions

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Government of Punjab has opposed recommendations contained in a draft related to prevention of forced conversions of people belonging to religious minorities. These recommendations were sent by the Federal Government contained in a draft of an act titled “stopforcedconversionsofreligioninpakistan.”

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This draft was sent to Chief Secretary Punjab, Captain (Retd.) Zahid Saeed to be reviewed by the Federal Ministry of National Harmony and Minorities’ Affairs. The draft stated that the First Information Report of incidents of forced conversions must be filed immediately. It was further recommended that as soon as the abducted girl or boy in case of alleged forced conversion will be recovered, the judicial officers or police officers will carry out inquiry under Section 202 of the criminal procedure code.

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The draft further stated that the abductee would be sent to the provincial safe house for the sake of his or her security. The victims will be granted a period of 21 days to consider for themselves and decide if they want to continue in Islam; for this purpose they will be provided with religious literature in order to study Islam. Meanwhile victim’s relatives and abductors would not be allowed to meet the victim.

Followed by the period of 21 days, the victim would appear before the District and Sessions judge and give his or her statement. If the judge would deem if satisfactory that the abductee is sure and has knowledge of Islam then he or she is allowed to marry Muslim man or woman. Otherwise the victim will be sent to provincial safe house, established specially for the religious minorities.

The draft recommends that the safe house created for the religious minorities will be run under the administration of a management board which would include a retired judge of the High Court, human rights activist, an MPA from minority community, a psychiatrist and a representative of the ministry of religious affairs.

In response the Government of Punjab stated that single safe house will not be enough for the larger population in the province. It was maintained that if the federal government provides funds for the building safe houses then the provincial government has no problem with the establishment of safe houses. It was further pointed out that the draft is appropriate only in cases if the victims are literate.