Daily Briefs

Photo : Dawn

18 January 2020, Saturday

Forced conversion of minorities: A Parliamentary Committee hits the nail on the head

Sindh is the primary hub for forced conversions in Pakistan

PR Daily Brief | D. Suba Chandran

What happened?
A Parliamentary Committee formed to protect minorities from forced conversions in Pakistan met during the week to adopt terms of reference for its proceedings. Dawn, in one of its reports (18 January 2020) quoted the Chairman of the Committee making crucial observations on the issue, as the Committee proceeds to finalise its report in the next six months.

What is the background?
In November 2019, the Senate in Pakistan formed a Parliamentary committee that would work on legislation to prevent the forced conversion of minorities. The 22 member Parliamentary Committee to Protect Minorities from Forced Conversions was formed after consultations with the Speaker of the National Assembly, Leader of the Senate House and the Leader of the Opposition in Senate. The Committee includes the Minister for Religious Affairs, Minister for Human Rights and Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs.

Senator Anwarul Haq Kakar, serves as the Chairman of the Committee. Based on the news report, (Dawn, 18 January 2020) the following could be observed. 

  • While the aggrieved community complain about the issue as forced conversion, religious parties including the Jamaat-i-Islami and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam consider the same as willful conversion.
  • Forceful conversion is taking place primarily in Sindh, whereas the non-Muslim minority communities in the tribal regions of the KP are not under threat, because of local support to them from the community. According to Senator Sajjad Turi, from Parachinar in Khurram Agency: “Sikhs and Hindus live in remote villages. And we try our best to protect [them] against the Taliban. Everybody is happy there so what we need to do is narrow down the course of discussion to the infested areas.”
  • All conversions are not under duress and threats.

Sindh, in particular, faces the problem of forced conversion. According to an Express Tribune report, quoting Aurat Foundation, “around 1,000 women and young girls from religious minorities in Pakistan are forced to convert to the religion of the majority and marry their kidnappers every year. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan believes that more than 20 Hindu girls are kidnapped every month.” (The Express Tribune, 15 October 2019).

The provincial assembly attempted to address the issue through a bill, but could not pass it due to opposition from religious groups. The PPP government caved in and allowed the bill to be torpedoed. 

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