In what could be a major setback to efforts being made for the protection of the girl child and women, especially those from minority groups, Prime Minister Imran Khan has reportedly assured Islamic clerics that his government will not enact any law that “is in conflict with the teachings of Islam”, referring to the proposed drafts of bills related to domestic violence and anti-forced conversions.
According to a report by The News journalist Ansar Abbasi, PM Imran gave this assurance during a meeting with Islamic scholars in Karachi. It added that the premier requested the ulema “to keep him informed about any such activities so that he could intervene in time and ensure that no policy or law which conflicts with Islam is made”.
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“Some non-governmental organisations are working hard to get such laws and policies legislated that promote westernisation and seriously hurt our family system and socio-religious values,” Abbasi quoted PM Imran as saying.
وزیراعظم نے جبری مذہب تبدیلی بل کے بارے میں کہا کہ یہ ناممکن ہے کہ یہ بل پاس ہوجائے، میں تو حیران ہوں یہ بل پیش کیسے ہوگیا، بہت سے سازشی عناصرایسے بل لاتے رہتے ہیں۔ وزیراعظم عمران خان کی کراچی میں علماء کے وفد سے ملاقات، تفصیل مفتی طارق مسعود سےhttps://t.co/IXML5aJlli
— UNewsTv.Com (@UNewsTv) September 28, 2021
Imran pointed out that the spread of indecency and obscenity through social media seriously threatens our family system, which must be protected, the report claimed. It added that the scholars endorsed the PM’s stance, saying that it is the State’s responsibility to regulate the media and social media platforms to ensure that they operate within the parameters set by the constitution and the law and they should not be allowed to spread obscenity and indecency.
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PM Khan also talked about the Turkish drama ‘Diriliş: Ertuğrul’ and said that he made PTV air it. He said that it became instantly popular and broke all records, according to Abbasi.
The premier said earlier he was being told that producing indecent and vulgar dramas and films was the only choice to make them sell and earn money. He, however, said that the Turkish drama, which shows Islamic history and has no indecent and vulgar parts, has negated this excuse of depending on vulgarity for successful productions, Abbasi’s report claimed.
‘SETBACK TO MINORITIES’
The PM’s reported assurance has come days after the Federal Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony returned the draft of the Anti-Forced Conversion Bill to the Federal Ministry for Human Rights after raising objections on several clauses of the proposed legislation.
A press statement released by the Religious Affairs Ministry stated that it was opposed to the clauses related to the 18-year age bar on religion conversion, appearance before a judge, and a 90-day waiting period, saying these restrictions were anti-Islamic, illegal and violated the fundamental constitutional rights of an individual.
The statement quoted Religious Affairs Minister Pir Noorul Haq Qadri as saying that the draft bill had been returned to the Human Rights Ministry after thorough consultations with religious scholars and the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII).
The minister stated that the draft bill in its current form was contrary to principles of the Islamic Sharia and basic human rights. He added that the bill could be used to discourage people from converting to Islam, and would create divisions between the Muslim and non-Muslim communities.
The minister claimed that incidents of forced conversion in Pakistan were few but they projected a bad image of the country.
Statistics, time and time again, denote the undeniable reality of forced conversions. Even though the government does not collect data on forced conversions, minority rights organisation Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) noted that around 162 questionable conversions had been reported in the media between 2013 and 2020 and abuses which had occurred in violation of religious freedom enshrined in Pakistan’s constitution of 1973.
In his message on National Minorities’ Day, Church of Pakistan (CoP) President/Moderator Bishop Dr. Azad Marshall noted forced conversions of minority girls to be one of the major issues warranting a serious and instant response from the State “if we are to truly follow the Quaid’s vision of a pluralistic Pakistan”.
“It is important that we comprehensively implement in letter and spirit, the judgement of the Supreme Court of Pakistan delivered on June 19, 2014, without further delay,” he urged.
The Supreme Court of Pakistan in 2014 had clarified that religion cannot be defined in rigid terms and held that each citizen of Pakistan is free to exercise the right to profess, practice, and propagate their religious views.
The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), in July 2021, noted forced conversions of girls from minority religions to be one of the serious human rights abuses that the Pakistani government needs to respond to urgently.
“The Pakistani authorities have shamefully failed to address repeated calls to curb the longstanding violations of the right to freedom of religion or belief,” it said.