On Wednesday, a parliamentary committee rejected the anti-forced conversion bill after the Ministry of Religious Affairs opposed the proposed law. According to Dawn, Religious Affairs Minister Noor-ul-Haq Qadri said the “environment is unfavourable” for formulating a law against forced conversions and warned that forming a law on forced conversions would “create further problems for minorities” as they will be made more vulnerable. He also said the proposed law will deteriorate peace in the country.
It is unfortunate that the minister thinks such a law will lead to problems and will affect peace in the country. Minorities in Pakistan make up a very small number as more than 96 per cent population of the country is Muslim. So why would a bill that is against forced conversions, something that our religion also does not allow, make the minorities vulnerable? The Constitution of Pakistan guarantees that the rights of the minorities would be fully protected. Forced conversions are against the spirit of the Constitution as well as our religious teachings.
The Joint Action Committee for People’s Rights (JAC), a collection of 37 human rights groups, in an open letter has urged Prime Minister Imran Khan to take legal as well as administrative measures to protect minorities, especially the under age girls from forced conversions and marriages. The letter has also urged PM Khan to ensure the approval of the draft bill for timely legislation. The JAC also expressed its concern on the statements of the Minister for Religious Affairs on the draft bill to curb forced conversions, recalling that such statements are not only against the spirit of the Constitution, judgments of the Supreme Court of Pakistan but are also in contradiction with the stand taken by the PM against forced conversion of minority groups in Pakistan.
Hopefully, the government will address this issue soon. We know that the majority of these forced conversions are underage girls from minority communities. Such practices should not be condoned by the government. Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah had envisioned a Pakistan where the minorities would feel safe. We should not let our founding father down.