ISLAMABAD: The Parliamentary Committee to Protect Minorities from Forced Conversions observed on Monday that there must be clear definitions of, and differentiation between, forced and voluntary conversions.
Committee chairman Senator Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar informed members during a meeting that the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) had already been asked to undertake the task of preparing a draft to define forced conversions.
CII director general Inamul Haq informed the committee that the council’s research wing was working on the subject to find a comprehensively solution to the matter. “We are conducting the research on the matter and a holistic approach has been adopted,” he said, adding that the study could take some time to complete.
Subcommittee formed to look into proposed draft legislation on the subject
Later, a CII official told Dawn that the research could take four to six weeks as the council would study deliberations made on the subject in other Muslim countries whose social conditions were similar to that of Pakistan.
As the meeting discussed the issue of forced conversions in the country and some members even referred to various media and civil society reports, the committee chairman said there was a difference between forced conversion and other issues such as luring or escape by boys and girls from any given situation.
“Forced conversion is coercion, use of physical power as threat or in a criminal manner, but all conversions are not like that — some are luring, attraction through incentives,” Senator Kakar said. “But that too is wrong; it could be grooming in a mafia way, we need to stop such things; however, it is important to define forced conversion and clarify things instead of seeking solution to a problem directionless,” he added.
The committee had also sought feedback from the Ministry of Human Rights on the issue of forced conversion and ways to stop it.
The committee was informed by the ministry officials that measures and legislation against forced conversions implemented in some countries around the world had been submitted to the committee’s secretariat as examples.
The committee forwarded the papers submitted by the Ministry of Human Rights to the law ministry with a directive that legal opinion be submitted to it in three weeks.
A subcommittee has also been formed to look into the proposed draft legislation against forced conversions so that a comprehensive law to cover all aspects of forced conversions can be framed.
Senator Sikandar Mandhro will be convener of the subcommittee comprising Senator Muhammad Ali Khan and MNAs Lal Chand and Amir Naveed Jeeva.
The meeting also discussed the committee’s visit to Sindh last month and to further the matter relevant officials of the provincial government were called to update the committee.
The DIG (crime and investigation) Sindh police informed the meeting that in the light of recommendations made by the committee during its visit to the province, improvement in FIR registration and keeping the victims in shelter homes had been carried out. In addition, specific cases related to forced conversions have been defined separately for registration of FIR. He said training would be imparted to investigation officers to carefully proceed with the cases of forced conversions.
The Sindh minority affairs secretary informed the meeting that the authorities concerned started implementing the committee’s recommendations about holding of consultative meetings with the families of girls allegedly kidnapped for forced conversion, as well as provision of protection to the families.
The committee was informed that deputy commissioners and superintendents of police had been directed by the Sindh government to supervise cases of alleged forced conversion and not allow non-state actors to take the task in their hands.
The meeting was attended by Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan, Senators Dr Sikandar Mandhro, Dr Ashok Kumar and Muhammad Ali Khan Saif, MNAs Lal Chand, Dr Darshan, Naveed Aamir Jeeva, Kesoo Mal Kheal Das and Ramesh Lal.
Published in Dawn, November 17th, 2020