Pakistani Hindus are angry at the PPP government’s u-turn on the Forced Conversion Bill/Minority Protection Bill and they took to streets to demand the legislation be passed as it has the potential to put an end to forced conversion of minor girls and boys of the Hindu and other communities.
The protest by the Pakistani Hindus was organized in front of the Karachi Press Club by Sindh Progressive Committee after it became clear that Asif Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari are ready to pull a Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB) on them and appease the Islamist hardliners who would be badly hit if the Forced Conversion Bill/Minority Protection Bill becomes a reality.
Bilawal’s grandfather (ZAB) had, in the pressure of Islamists, declared Ahmadiyyas as non-Muslims to retain power and sealed their fate in Pakistan. Bilawal was earlier praised by some non-Pakistani Hindu groups for visiting Temple during Diwali. However, his coming to the Temple led many dub him as a converted Hindu and angered the powerful Islamist lobby.
He also broke Temple convention when the women and men of his party suddenly started howling while he held the pooja thali which hurt the sentiments of the Pakistani Hindus who wanted to see this event as something more than a PR exercise for the struggling young politician.
Pakistani Hindus want the Act to become reality
The Criminal Law (Protection of Minorities) Act 2015 is a landmark in the history of shabby human rights in Pakistan and Pakistani Hindus see this as an important step towards equal rights.
The new law gave minorities like the Pakistani Hindus breathing space and it initially, to the credit of mainstream political parties, got the support of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, PML-Functional, Muttahida Qaumi Movement and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).
The Bill gives the following provisions:
1.) Chapter III of the bill, “Age of Conversion” prohibits children from converting to a different religion until while they are minors.
2.) Section 4(1) states “[n]o person shall be deemed to have changed their religion until they attain the age of majority,” which is 18 years of age. And any minor who claims to have changed their religion before attaining majority shall not be deemed to have changed their religion and no action shall be taken against him or her for any such claim or action made by the minor.”
3.) The bill defines forced conversion to mean “forcing a person to adopt another religion under duress, force, coercion or threat.” The punishment that it provides for this action consists of a minimum term of imprisonment of five years and a maximum term of life imprisonment, plus a fine paid to the victim. Persons who perform, conduct, direct, or bring about or facilitate a marriage, knowing that either or both parties are victims of forced conversion, or who are abettors to a forced conversion, are also liable to imprisonment and a fine.
4.) Chapter V of the bill speaks on “mechanisms of complaint” against a forced conversion. One provision stipulates that the victim of or person aggrieved by a forced conversion, any person authorized by the victim, or an informer may present a petition of complaint against it to a local court, subject to certain jurisdictional rules. Any case of forced conversion before a court must be disposed of within 90 days.
5.) Chapter VI speaks on “rescue, custody, and special procedures in cases of forced conversion,” and its provisions include various protections for adult and child victims. The authorities may have a victim of a forced conversion be given temporary residence in a shelter for the duration of the trial; if the victim is a child and it is not in his or her best interest to be with the parents or guardian, the child can be placed in temporary custody at a child protection institution during the period of the trial. The bill further stipulates that the court may exercise its discretion in the interest of the victim’s security to withhold information about the location of the shelter.
However, the Islamic parties want the Bill to go down the drain as it hampers their movement to Islamize whole of Pakistan. These parties are the primary movers and shakers in the forced conversion business or else why would Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-S’s Maulana Samiul Haq dare to demand that the Sindh Assembly be dismissed if the bill is passed.
On December 16, threatened by Islamic parties the senior Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Nisar Ahmad Khuhro already showed the weakness of the mainstream Pakistani political parties when he announced that they won’t mind taking a closer look at the bill again as there is, as the Islamic parties also say, no age constraint when conversion to Islam is concerned. He had said:
“Our country has a religious constitution. So, we will never go against the Holy Quran and Shariah laws which have been written into the Pakistan Constitution. Indeed, the Constitution and Quran both do not allow any kind of forced conversion. We will protect our girls but no law speaks of an age limitation on conversion.”
However, no one can leave Islam after conversion or he/she may get killed as apostasy is a serious crime in the eyes of this overwhelming Islamic society.
But why are political parties in Pakistan so worried?
PML-F MPA Nand Kumar Goklani and Nisar Khuhro both were given death threats. Goklani was the one who introduced the Bill.
The Islamic parties don’t enjoy political power but they enjoy political patronage in a country with a radicalized majority. Death threats issued by Islamists against politicians who are considered too minority-friendly did the job and now with Zardari and Bilawal ready to court these elements in a bid to topple Nawaz Sharif, it seems likely that minorities like the Pakistani Hindus and Christians will be the ultimate sufferers.
You May Also Like: