Pakistan: Sindh Assembly ready to revoke bill on forced conversion

Former president of Pakistan and co-chairman of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Asif Ali Zardari has told the Ameer Jammat-e-Islami Sirajul Haq to take back the Sindh Assembly’s recently passed forced conversion bill in the.

Siraj thanked the PPP leader for taking into consideration the reservations against the bill and said that every citizen of Pakistan deserves equal rights irrespective of their religious affiliations.

The Sindh Assembly unanimously passed a bill against forced religious conversions in the province.

According to the bill, change of religion will not be recognised until the person reaches 18 years of age, moreover at least seven years in prison for perpetrators, and a five-year jail term was recommended for facilitators of forced conversions.

The bill also states that adults considering changing their religion be provided with a safe house to live for 21 days, to ensure they are making the said decision without any coercion.

The bill has faced strict opposition with some criticising the federal and provincial governments for enacting what they deem to be un-Islamic laws.

Nasir Saeed, Director CLAAS-UK, said it is very disappointing as the bill is still pending for the signature from the governor, but now it seems the Sindh assembly is willing to revoke it.

“Since the Sindh Assembly (provincial government of Pakistan) passed the law, Islamic religious groups are continuously not just opposing the law, but threatening the Sindh government with dire consequences if the law is not withdrawn.

“Some of PPP’s senior leaders have already said changes can be made to the bill to satisfy the religious groups, who are calling this law un-Islamic and unconstitutional even controversial to the article 18 of the UDHR.”

Mr Saeed said that it would be unacceptable to minorities if the bill is taken back because they have been demanding it for years and the PPP took its time to pass this bill. He added that since this bill has been passed, the Sindh government must stick to it, get it signed by the governor and implement it as soon as possible, if the Sindh government believes in protecting its minorities.

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