The Imran Khan-led Pakistan government’s decision to introduce an anti-forced conversion bill has angered the Islamic fundamentalists, religious clerics in Pakistan, reports Dawn.
According to the reports, clerics and religious fundamentals have expressed serious apprehension regarding the proposed anti-forced conversion bill and warned the Imran Khan government against passing it in its current shape.
The ministry invited only Muslim stakeholders to hold the in-camera meeting on Monday. The Members of the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) or its chairman, Chela Ram, were not invited to the meeting.
The meeting was chaired by Pakistan’s Minister for Religious Affairs, Pir Noorul Haq Qadri. The government had invited Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) Chairman Dr Qibla Ayaz, CII’s other officials and some local clerics to the meeting.
One of its invitees said they were invited to discuss the draft of the “Prohibition of Forced Conversion Act, 2021”. “The copies of the draft were shared, and discussions were held after everyone in the room went through the papers,” a senior cleric added.
After reading the draft, the clerics and religious scholars expressed serious reservations over several clauses, including the minimum age of conversion. The clerics raised objections against criminalising forced conversion of people below 18 years and claimed that this age bracket was contrary to the draft domestic violence bill that was currently with the law ministry.
“When parents cannot even scold their children under the domestic violence bill, so can they stop their children from embracing Islam?” one of the clerics was quoted as saying.
According to the reports, any non-Muslim who is not a child and is able and willing to convert to another religion can apply for a conversion certificate from an additional sessions judge of the area where they are residing.
The draft law also highlights that the applicant will have to include all the details, including name, address, family details, their current religion and the reason to convert to the new religion, in his application.
The draft law states that the additional sessions judge will set a date for an interview within seven days of receipt of an application for conversion, and on the date, the judge will ensure that the conversion is not under any pressure or forceful and not due to any deceit or fraudulent misrepresentation.
The proposed law states that the judge may award a time period of 90 days to the non-Muslim to undertake a comparative study of the religions and return to the judge. Then, the judge may grant the certificate of change of religion after a detailed study.
The proposed law also awards punishment between five to ten years and a fine from Rs.1,00,000 to Rs. 2,00,000 to any person who converts forcefully.
Pakistan is notoriously known for its persecution of not only religious minorities but also ethnic minorities within their own country. The forceful conversion programmes have often been unleashed against the minorities, especially Christians, Sikhs and Hindus living in Pakistan, with utmost brutality.