Minorities commission finalises draft law against forced conversion

Published October 22, 2020
ISLAMABAD: National Commission for Minorities chairman Chela Ram Kewlani along with Council of Islamic Ideology official Dr Qibla Ayaz and others addressing a press conference on Wednesday. — Tanveer Shahzad / White Star
ISLAMABAD: National Commission for Minorities chairman Chela Ram Kewlani along with Council of Islamic Ideology official Dr Qibla Ayaz and others addressing a press conference on Wednesday. — Tanveer Shahzad / White Star

ISLAMABAD: The National Commission for Minorities has finalised a draft law to curb forced conversions, Chela Ram, the body’s chairman, said on Wednesday.

But the law will be finalised only after consultations with the provinces and the leaders of all schools of thought, Mr Ram added.

He was addressing a news conference at the Press Information Department. Dr Qibla Ayaz, who heads the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), was also present.

Members of the commission who attended the event were Shunila Ruth, Prof Dr Sarah Safdar, Dr Saroop Singh and Mufti Gulzar Ahmed Naeemi.

Chair says provinces, representatives of various sections of society to be consulted

Chela Ram said the religious affairs ministry had forwarded the draft to the law ministry for vetting and that the prime minister had assured the commission of the government’s support for the proposed law.

“Prime Minister Imran Khan has assured us that steps will be taken to resolve the problems of minorities and that the government is taking measures to curb incidents of forced conversion,” the commission’s chairman said.

He said members of the National Commission for Minorities had visited various parts of the country to learn about the problems faced by non-Muslims.

Qibla Ayaz, the CII chief, said the president and the prime minister had given an assurance that the National Commission for Minorities would be strengthened.

“This commission is not only a need of the country but also essential for improving the country’s image.”

He praised the work done by the parliamentary committee against forced conversion, headed by Senator Anwar Kakar.

The National Commission for Minorities will work to bring about unity so that conspiracies against the nation were nipped in the bud, Dr Ayaz added.

Regarding eradication of extremism from society, the CII chairman said the heads of all the five seminary boards and a large number of ulema had agreed upon a plan of action, to be known as “Paigham-i-Pakistan”, to promote brotherhood among different religious groups and sects.

In reply to a question about the construction of a temple in Islamabad, he said the matter was under discussion at the Council of Islamic Ideology. “I can assure you that a decision will be made in accordance with the Constitution and international laws.”

Shunila Ruth, an MNA who was present at the press conference, said that after the 18th Amendment the subject of religious minorities had been transferred to the provinces, but forced conversion was an issue for the entire nation.

“This was not a political issue and there are differences between the ruling party and the opposition over this subject,” she observed.

“There were issues at the government level over the last few decades, but the state has never adopted discriminatory policies against religious minorities,” Ms Ruth said. “The problems now revolve around certain individuals and things are changing now.”

The members of the commission said the current government was committed to protecting the rights of minorities. It will ensure adherence to the five per cent quota requirement in jobs for minorities and had allocated seven per cent funds under the Ehsaas programme for them.

Published in Dawn, October 22nd, 2020

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