ISLAMABAD: People of Pakistan in general and some segments of society in particular have been denied their basic rights because of two forces ‘ideology and national security brigades.’ Civil society and politicians should raise questions to open the door for debates on different issues.
This was stated by Senator Farhatullah Babar of the PPP at a seminar, “Progressive legislation: prospects and challenges” organised by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute on Monday.
The passage of the ‘Criminal Law (Protection of Minorities) Bill 2015’ by the Sindh Assembly was also discussed in the context of former president Asif Zardari’s assurance to Jamaat i Islami (JI) emir Sirajul Haq that the age limit fixed for conversion would be removed from the bill.
The bill suggests legal action against forced conversions and allows only those over 18 years of age to convert their religion.
Mr Babar said both the ‘brigades’ were a hurdle in the progressive legislation as a number of bills such as the right to information could not be passed because of the security brigade.
He also referred to the lingering issue of missing persons.
The ideology brigade always created hurdles in the way of legislation on rape, women protection etc, he added.
“The ideology brigade cannot be stopped through legislation. There is a need to take long-term steps to address the issue because even organisations such as the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) are of the view that the use of DNA in rape cases is not Islamic. We need to build public opinion.”
Senator Farhatullah Babar says Pakistani people have been denied their basic rights because of these forces
He said there was an opinion that even discussions on the amendment to the blasphemy law was an act of blasphemy. But after an observation of the Supreme Court that the law can be amended, there is a need to define the law.
Mr Babar suggested that the civil society should deal with the issue arising out of the conversion bill and ask its opponents what should be the age limit for a Muslim if they want to change their religion.
“Only that is how doors for new debates will be open and things will start streamlining,” he said.
Senior journalist Zahid Hussain said during the last a few years so many incidents of forced conversions took place in Sindh, forcing thousands of Hindus to migrate to India.
“Why only Hindu girls are converting to Islam? The fact is they are kidnapped, raped and then forced to change their religion.”
He said it was strange that all political parties in Sindh had backed the bill but only the JI and Jamaatud Dawa were against it.
“How one person can decide that the bill should be changed or amended? Now so-called religious scholars will decide who is a good Muslim and who is not. It shows that elected representatives are weak.”
He said the situation was worse and governments were weak as a former chief justice of Lahore High Court and three former judges of the Supreme Court were defending the assassin of former Punjab Governor Salman Taseer.
On the other hand, after a programme by a TV channel, the Punjab government removed the chapter on comparative religions from the syllabus. It is also a fact that we have created problems for ourselves because of the syllabus, he said.
Civil society activist Romana Bashir said Article 20 of the Constitution allowed preaching for a religion but in Pakistan minorities cannot preach their religions.
In schools, the subject of ethics has been introduced for minorities but books are not available. Even if books are provided to the students, same teachers are teaching ethics and Islamiat simultaneously.
She said the bill had given a hope to the minorities but now they were disappointed. It is the responsibility of parliamentarians to resist the reversal of the progressive legislation, she said.
Right activist Jagmohan Kumar Arora said though minorities played their role in the creation of Pakistan, they were ignored in the country. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was the first politician who established a ministry for the minorities and tried to give them recognition.
“We had expected that the Sindh Assembly bill will also be passed by other provincial assemblies but PPP leader Asif Zardari has taken a U-turn on it. If someone wants to change their religion, he can but children should not be allowed to change their religion either by force or for some incentives,” he said.
He said forced conversions were also against Islam, so it should not be allowed. Moreover, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah always spoke about minorities’ rights.
courtesy : Dawn News