PML-F lawmaker from Sanghar Nand Kumar Goklani tabled the bill against forced conversions in 2015.
PML-F lawmaker from Sanghar Nand Kumar Goklani tabled the bill against forced conversions in 2015.

KARACHI: Becoming the first provincial assembly in the country’s history to do legislation for the protection of minority communities against forced conversion, the Sindh Assembly on Thursday unanimously passed into law a private bill — The Criminal Law (Protection of Minorities) Bill, 2015, — making forced religious conversion a punishable criminal act.

The bill prescribes a sentence from five years to life imprisonment for the person who forcibly converts another person, with a fine to be paid to the victim. Also, anyone who performs or facilitates in any manner a marriage of the victims of forced conversion will be liable to imprisonment of three years, with a fine to be paid to the victim. The bill forbids minors from changing their religion. The bill, which was moved by Pakistan Muslim League-Functional lawmaker Nand Kumar Goklani in 2015, expressed his gratitude to the house, particularly the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party, which he said wrote history by adopting the opposition party’s bill as without the support of the treasury benches the bill could not have been passed into a law.

Since the private bill could not be taken up on Tuesday, which was a private members day, for want of time, PPP lawmaker Khattumal Jeevan, who was also a member of the standing committee that had filed its report on the bill, sought permission of the house after completion of the agenda of the government business for relaxation of rules to introduce a supplementary order of the day on Thursday so that he could move the bill.

Senior Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Nisar Ahmed Khuhro said the bill could come up for consideration on some other private members day, but the lawmaker requested for relaxation of rules in view of the importance of the legislation.

As the house allowed the motion, Mr Jeevan tabled the bill and after its due consideration clause by clause and third reading, the bill was passed into law unanimously when put to the house.

Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani greeted all members for the historic legislation which would address the grievances of the lawmakers belonging to the minority communities.

Muttahida Qaumi Movement Parliamentary Party leader Syed Sardar Ahmed and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf lawmaker Samar Ali Khan extended greetings to the minorities on the adoption of the bill into law.

Mr Goklani expressed gratitude to the entire house, particularly the treasury benches. He also expressed thanks to Poonjo Bheel of the MQM, chairman of the standing committee, along with other members of the committee for their contribution to make the legislation of the bill possible.

Published in Dawn, November 25th, 2016

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