Islamabad [Pakistan], July 15 (ANI): The practice of forceful conversion, which for long has been used as a convenient tool to repress religious minorities in Pakistan, has found many supporters within the Imran Khan-led government despite the international scrutiny.
During a meeting of the Senate parliamentary committee on minorities' rights, Minister for Religious Affairs Noorul Haq Qadri on Wednesday opposed a restriction on converting religion before the age of 18 years, saying that if someone aged 14 years wished to convert to some other religion, they could "not be stopped", Dawn reported.
Despite the repeated global calls for actions against the menace, the minister said: "We do not support a restriction on religious conversion before 18 years of age."
"There are several incidents where someone expresses the wish to convert their religion out of their own choice before the age of 18. There are several examples in Islam of religious conversion before 18," he said.
Meanwhile, Senator Danesh Kumar told the committee that a new "tradition" of converting people had started in Balochistan.
"There is a religious leader in Dalbandin. Sweepers are being told that they [will not have to do] cleaning work if they convert to Islam," he claimed.
Pakistan has come under adverse international scrutiny for yet another case of forced conversion and marriage of a minor girl from Gujranwala city of Punjab province.
Flagging the case of 13-year-old Christian girl Nayab Gill, who after she was abducted on May 20 was converted and married off to a 30-year old Muslim man, the Overseas Pakistani Christian Alliance (OPCA), a Europe-based advocacy group had on July 3 submitted a petition to Pakistan Missions in Western Capitals urging action to prevent such cases.
Earlier this year, the committee had recommended that only a mature person may be allowed to change their religion and that too after appearing before an additional sessions judge of the area.
it is estimated that over 1000 women and girls from religious minorities are abducted and forcibly converted in Pakistan every year.
Even the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan mentions that every month 20 or more Hindu girls are abducted and forcibly converted in the country.
Among the four provinces, Sindh and Punjab have the highest cases of forced conversion due to socio-economic conditions of minorities, religious fundamentalism, the State's apathy towards the crime and tacit support from powerful pressure groups. The existing laws for protection against such offences are considered insufficient by human rights groups. Moreover, these are not strictly implemented by the police and judiciary.
The minorities in Pakistan, especially Hindus, continue to face persecution at the hands of state and non-state actors as incidents of violence and forced conversions are on the rise.
Pakistan on several occasions has promised to safeguard the interests of minority communities in the nation. However, rampant attacks on the minorities narrate a different story.
Islamabad has been discriminating against its religious minorities, which is manifested in various forms of targeted violence, mass murders, extrajudicial killings, abduction, rapes, forced conversion to Islam, etc., making the Pakistani Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Ahmadiyyas, and Shias one of the most persecuted minorities in the region. (ANI)