Minorities free to practice their religion, top judge says

    Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Gulzar Ahmed has said all citizens of Pakistan, including religious minorities, are free to practice their religion.

    He expressed these views while speaking as a chief guest at the Navratri festival of the Hindu community at Durga Shiv Mandir inside the Circuit House here the other day where the community presented traditional gifts to him.

    The CJP said the rights of all the citizens were guaranteed in the constitution which would be abided by while the issues of several temples had come before him for justice. He added that all the temples which were under illegal occupation would be vacated and returned to the community.

    The CJP observed that Quaid-e-Azam had categorically stated that the religious freedom of all the people would be ensured in Pakistan. Just as other Pakistanis, Hindus also enjoy constitutional protection, he added.

    Last week, on the celebration of Holy Prophet’s (Peace Be Upon Him) birth, Prime Minister Imran Khan said Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) laid the foundation of Riyasat-e-Madina which rose before the world as an example for others in terms of humanity, justice, and rule of law.

    In this state system, minorities were protected, poor and needy were taken care of and rights and obligations of the state and citizens were determined, the PM added.

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    Earlier this month, a parliamentary committee rejected the anti-forced conversion bill, prompting protest from the lawmakers belonging to the minority communities. Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Sahibzada Noorul Haq Qadri had said that the environment was “unfavourable” for formulating such a law.

    The proposed law stipulated punishment between five to 10 years and a fine to any person who uses criminal force to convert a person to another religion.

    Senator Mushtaq Ahmed from Jamaat-e-Islami denied that the problem of forced conversions existed in Pakistan. “This bill is anti-Islam,” he claimed. Blaming the government for proposing the bill, the JI senator said that due to the incumbent government’s wrong policies and negligence, the minorities were facing issues.

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    PTI MNA Lal Chand Malhi, speaking on the occasion, said that by rejecting the bill, the minorities are being cornered and their life will become a “living hell”. He maintained that an impression was being given that forced conversions were not an issue in the country.

    The minority communities’ members argued that young people were being “kidnapped” and forcibly converted to Islam. PTI lawmaker Ramesh Kumar clarified that many Hindus were promised money and marriages in order to lure them into converting, adding that they were not opposed to willful conversion.

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