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Ministry of Religious Affairs urged to show sympathy on forced conversions

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LAHORE, Pakistan: The Peoples’ Commission for Minorities Rights (PCMR) has condemned the ongoing maneuvering by some quarters to remove safeguards against forced conversion proposed in the draft bill on this subject.

The draft bill was prepared by the Federal Ministry of Human Rights recently.

In a joint statement, the Chairperson and Member of PCMR National Council Peter Jacob, Justice (retd) Kailashnath Kohli, Advocate Ram Parkash, Kalpana Devi, Saroop Ijaz, and Saqib Jillani have regretted the position taken by the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony on forced conversion.

Earlier, the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), an organization affiliated with the PCMR, had issued its research report titled, Silence of the Lamb III which revealed that the phenomenon of forced conversion and marriages of minor girls from the Hindu and Christian community was not limited to Sindh and Punjab but present in other parts of the country.

According to the report, the highest incidences of alleged forced conversions (51.85%) was reported in Punjab, 43.83% in Sindh, 1.23% in Federal and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa each while one case was reported in Balochistan.

The PCMR further urged the Ministry of Religious Affairs and the federal government to take a sympathetic position. The PCMR’s statement urged that the government should consult the history to learn from the stand taken by the All India Muslim League in a demand made in 1927.

The PCMR quoted Historian Ghulam Ali Allana’s book, Pakistan Movement: Historic Documents which carried the League’s demand as follows, “Every individual or group is at liberty to convert or re-convert another by argument or persuasion, but that no individual or group shall attempt to do so or prevent its being done by force, fraud or other unfair means. Persons under eighteen years of age should not be converted unless it be along with their parents or guardians.”

Peter Jacob said further, “Therefore a denial of or resistance to safeguards against forced conversion goes against the basic idea of religious freedom. Forced Conversion is a violation of fundamental human rights and democracy. For years minorities have suffered at the hands of criminal individuals and groups, using religion as their shelter. The government should fulfill its duty to protect minorities and stop anyone violating the law be severely punished.”

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