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Hindu citizens speak against opposition to bill criminalising forced conversions

ISLAMABAD: Members of the Hindu community have criticised religious political parties for opposing the Minorities Bill 2015, which was recently approved in Sindh and which criminalises forced conversions.

Talking to the media outside the parliament on Tuesday, PML-N MNA Dr Ramesh Kumar commended the PPP government in Sindh for setting the minimum age for religious conversion to 18.

“People are issued a CNIC and driving licence at 18 and are allowed to vote after they are 18. In Sindh, the age at which someone can be legally married is also 18 because before that, an individual is considered a child,” Dr Kumar said.

He said that girls belonging to minority religions are kidnapped in Sindh and forcibly married, mostly to seminary students, and that they have no choice but to adapt to their new lives.

“After this law, conversions before the age of 18 will be considered a crime,” he said.

Dr Ramesh ran into Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) chief Senator Sirajul Haq outside the parliament building and asked him not to protest unnecessarily against the bill for minority rights. The JI chief smiled and continued talking to the media.

Members of the civil society also talked to the media on Tuesday and said that incidences of forced conversions were increasing across the country, particularly in Sindh, and that the bill in question will go a long way to help the minorities in Pakistan.

“Conversion is a basic right as marriage is, but just like forced marriage, forced conversions are also a violation of human rights and is against the teachings of Islam as well,” said Krishan Sharma, chairman of the REAT Network Pakistan.

Talking to the media, Mr Sharma said that Hindus in the region have historically converted to Islam or Christianity and that they have carried their family names after conversion as well.

“There are two kinds of conversions even now, when Hindus convert after they are preached to by Christian or Muslim missionaries or when they are forcibly converted,” he said.

All the provinces should adopt similar laws to protect minorities from forced conversions and forced marriages, he said.

The two larger religious political parties, the JI and the Jamiat Ulema Islam-F, are opposing the new law which was recently enacted in Sindh. They claim the law is part of a conspiracy to make Pakistan a liberal and secular country.

Talking to the media, JI chief Senator Haq said the law related to religious conversions which was approved by the Sindh Assembly was a violation of the Constitution and was also against the UN Charter.

“This law could lead to conflicts between Muslims and non-Muslims, which could also be a conspiracy,” he claimed.

“These two documents grant the right to religious freedom and the law which says that no one can convert before the age of 18 is also contrary to the teachings of Islam,” he went on to say.

He then called on PPP leaders Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari to direct the provincial government to take the bill back and concentrate on improving the quality of life in Karachi and interior Sindh.

JI is a protector of minority rights, which is evident from the active participation of Hindus, Sikhs and Christians in the party’s rallies, Senator Sirajul Haq claimed.

courtesy : dawn news



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