ISLAMABAD : Clerics belonging to all the four mainstream schools of thought on Thursday rejected the draft Anti-Forced Conversion Bill, calling it a conspiracy and suggested that the government should not fall into the trap of the West by taking the draft bill to parliament.
At a meeting, chaired by Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) Chairman Dr Qibla Ayaz, they reviewed the draft bill. Minister for religious affairs Pir Noorul Haq Qadri attended the meeting held to commemorate the completion of three years of the present government.
The meeting was attended by senior officials of the CII, Ministry of Religious Affairs and clerics belonging to the four mainstream schools of thought in the country - Shia, Barelvi, Deobandi and Ahle Hadis.
The participants criticised the Ministry of Human Rights for not sharing with them the report of Senator Anwaarul Haq Kakar when he was the chairman of the Parliamentary Committee to Protect Minorities from Forced Conversions.
Govt asked not to take bill to parliament
The officials of the Ministry of Religious Affairs told the clerics that the report had been received from the Ministry of Human Rights and would be provided to them on Friday (today).
Incidentally, not only the clerics but even the officials were unanimous in declaring that there was no forced conversion in the country and most of the cases related to “love affairs between individuals”.
The meeting also unanimously rejected the title of the draft bill - Anti Forced Conversion - and one of the clerics later said the bill was a trap and the government should avoid it at all cost.
The cleric on the condition of anonymity added that it had been decided in the meeting that none of the participants would speak about the subject in public.
The meeting formed a committee headed by Dr Inamullah Khan, head of research at the CII, and including officials of the Ministry of Religious Affairs for suggesting an alternate name for the bill and eradicating controversial clauses in it.
Meanwhile, in another meeting, the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) too decided to formulate proposals for the bill against forced conversion.
The meeting of the NCM was chaired by Cheela Ram Kewalani and was briefed by Secretary Religious Affairs Sardar Ijaz Khan Jaffar and other officials of the Ministry of Law, Human Rights and Nadra.
The meeting noted that suggestions had been received from all stakeholders over the draft law to protect minorities, and after formulating all the proposals the draft would be sent to the Ministry of Law for vetting.
The chairman of the NCM said a law to protect religious minorities from forced conversion was the need of time and the commission was compiling proposals in this regard.
The meeting noted that the commission can play an effective role in promoting religious harmony in society, and lauded the government for arresting the culprits who disgraced the
Ganesh Mandir in Bhong, Rahim Yar Khan, and started the rebuilding of the temple.
“Such incidents not only hurt the religious minorities but also the Muslim brothers,” Mr Cheela Ram added.
“The dignity of the entire Pakistani nation has been tarnished due to the incompetence of some people,” he added.
However, the commission noted that before the Bhong temple tragedy, the administration had shown negligence but such negligence should not be repeated and it could have been averted had recommendations of the “Implementing Commission on Terry Temple, Karak, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, been adopted by the Punjab government.
Published in Dawn, August 27th, 2021