Parliamentary committee rejects anti-forced conversion bill

The Parliamentary Committee to Protect Minorities from Forced Conversions has rejected the anti-forced conversion bill stating that the “environment to formulate the law is unfavourable”.

At a seminar concerning the matter Wednesday, Religious Affairs Minister Noorul Haq Qadri said that the problems faced by Hindu women has nothing to do with religion. “Their issues are social and societal.”

He insisted that the formation of a bill with increase problems for minorities and make them more vulnerable. “There is no concept of forced conversions or marriages in Islam.”

The issue of forced conversions will be dealt through other measures under consideration by the PM’s Office, provincial governments, and the National Assembly speaker, Qadri said, adding that his office was working round the clock to ensure the protection of the rights of minorities.

Interfaith Harmony Councils have been working across the country to resolve complaints of minorities. So far, 160 complaints have been resolved.

Meanwhile, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan, during the parliamentary meeting, said that the bill was being opposed because setting an age limit with regards to forced conversions was against Islam and the Constitution.

The bill was rejected by other members of the committee as well leading to protests by a number of committee members from minority committees.

PTI lawmaker Ramesh Kumar said that the committee seems to be oblivious to forced conversions taking place across the country. “Decisions like these will make lives of minorities hell,” he said.

Earlier this year in February, a Senate panel rejected the bill as well. According to a report by DAWN, in August, clerics opposed the proposed law calling it a “conspiracy” and “trap of the West”.

The anti-forced conversion bill

The proposed law prohibits forced conversion of any individual of a religious minority. A non-Muslim, who is not a child, and is able and willing to convert to another religion will have to apply for a conversion certificate from an additional sessions judge in the city or district they are situated in.

They will have to provide their CNIC, religion, age, gender, and details of their parents or spouses. The certificate should also include the reason of conversion.

After the certificate is submitted, the additional sessions judge will set a date to interview the applicant to ensure that their decision has not been taken under duress.

“The judge may award a time period of 90 days to the non-Muslim to undertake a comparative study of the religions and return to the office of the Additional Sessions Judge,” the draft stated.

In case a forced conversion is found, the law has proposed these punishments for offenders:

  • Five to 10 years in prison and a fine from Rs100,000 to Rs200,000 for forcefully converting someone.
  • An abettor to a forced conversion will be liable to a fine of Rs100,000 and/or three to five years in prison.

The draft added that people will also be punished for hate speech, violence, discrimination, and damaging religious heritage of minorities.


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