Hindu community’s concerns: President Zardari asks Sindh to legislate on forced conversions

Back from the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation summit in Makkah, President Asif Ali Zardari stopped over in Karachi and directed Chief Minister Sindh Qaim Ali Shah to make an amendment to the constitution against forced conversion of minorities in Sindh.
At a meeting at Bilawal House on Thursday, Pakistan Peoples Party MNA Faryal Talpur and Chief Minister Shah briefed the president about the concern of Hindu community following reports of their mass migration to India.
“The reports of mass migration of Hindus to India are merely speculative, but people of the Hindu community are insisting that a law is made against forced conversions,” sources quoted the chief minister as saying.
Sources said the President directed his sister, Faryal Talpur, and Shah to visit Jacobabad and meet representatives of the Hindu community before formulating a law on forced conversions.
The president also directed Shah to form a committee under the Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ayaz Soomro to prepare a draft in order to make an amendment to the constitution. Elected representatives and leaders of the Hindu panchayat would be members of the committee.
“If any case of conversion is reported without the consent of a girl and her parents, the SHOs would frame charges of kidnapping against the people involved,” a Sindh cabinet member familiar with the development said.
Interestingly, when two PPP minority MPAs – Saleem Khurshid Khokhar and Pitanber Sewani – moved a resolution against forced conversions in Sindh a few months ago, demanding legislation on the issue, the only opposition came from senior lawmakers of the ruling PPP.
The lawmakers had argued that minorities in Pakistan already enjoy protection under Article 20 of the Constitution and that the law already exists; therefore there is no need for new legislation.
Meanwhile, a petition filed by the Hindu Council in Sindh High Court seeking enactment of a law against forced conversions was also dismissed on the same ground.
Babu Mahesh Lal, Hindu Panchayat Jacobabad president, is not convinced.
“If the Constitution gives us full projection, then why is the state not protecting us when minor girls are kidnapped and kept in confinement without a marriage contract?” he said.
“Why is the marriage of a 12-year-old girl solemnized after she is kidnapped?” he added. Sham Kumar, a writer and an activist of Hindu community, asked why Hindu girls are not converting at seminaries, but only at marriage ceremonies.
“Why only Hindu girls are embracing Islam? Why not our boys?” he said, adding that these are only cases of forced conversion.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 18th, 2012.

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