FO rejects reports of forced conversions in Pakistan

Published December 30, 2020
FO spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri addresses a press conference. — DawnNewsTV/File
FO spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri addresses a press conference. — DawnNewsTV/File

Foreign Office (FO) spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri has said that there are no institutionalised forced conversions in the country, Radio Pakistan reported on Wednesday.

He said that probes into the allegations of forced conversions revealed that most of them were “fictitious, politically motivated or based on the mala fide intention of our detractors to malign Pakistan in the international community", the report stated.

In this regard, Chaudhri cited the example of the findings by Brussels-based EU Disinfo Lab about an Indian disinformation network operating to discredit nations in conflict with Delhi, particularly Pakistan.

The spokesman said that there have been a few incidents of forced conversions by individuals and non-state actors. "But there is no evidence of the involvement of any state institution," he was quoted as saying by the report.

The FO statement comes a day after The Associated Press published a story stating that nearly 1,000 girls from religious minorities are forced to convert to Islam in Pakistan each year.

"All state institutions have taken swift action against the perpetrators whenever such a case has been reported. In some instances, the state became a party to the case against the perpetrators in the court, in order to ensure speedy and effective justice," the FO spokesman said.

He added that the Constitution, as well as the legal and administrative framework, provided protection to minorities against forced conversions in Pakistan.

"Pakistan’s judiciary has been very vigilant and clear on the promotion and protection of the rights of minorities. Moreover, the media and civil society act as independent monitors in cases concerning the violation of minorities’ rights," the spokesperson said, adding that this helped develop a culture of accountability and transparency.

People from minority communities are equal citizens of Pakistan and are free to practice and promote their religions, he said.

“The contributions of minorities to our society are many and we are proud of them,” Chaudhri added.

He said Prime Minister Imran Khan’s vision of strengthening the framework for the protection of minorities in Pakistan was reflected in the latter's statements, including his first speech to the nation after becoming the premier.

Moreover, the prime minister has assumed a leadership role on the freedom of religion in the international arena due to his clear stance, the spokesperson said.

"The National Commission for Minorities has also been set up in the country and is fully functional and independent," he said, adding that the National Policy of Interfaith Harmony was also in the final stages of being adopted.

Chaudhri stated that the government will continue to take legal and administrative measures as well as devise policies to prevent the violations of minorities’ rights. "The foundations of the state of Pakistan are firmly laid down by Quaid-i-Azam and reflected in our Constitution," he said.

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