09/28/2020 Pakistan (International Christian Concern) – A Senate committee in Pakistan rejected a bill calling for the protection of religious minorities last Thursday, September 24. In rejecting the bill, a member of the committee claimed that a bill for the protection of the rights of Muslims should be presented instead.
The Protection of Rights of Minorities Bill, 2020, was introduced in Pakistan’s Senate last month. Last Thursday, the bill was considered and rejected by the Standing Committee on Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony.
In rejecting the bill, committee members claimed that work was already underway to prevent forced conversions of minorities and remove “hate material” from textbooks that are part of the country’s education system.
Senator Hafiz Abdul Karim dismissed the need for the bill and said, “Minorities in Pakistan have already been granted several rights. A lot of fuss is made when some Hindu girls convert to Islam and marry Muslim boys. Everybody has the right to freedom of religion.”
According to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), Pakistan ranks among the world’s worst violators of religious freedom. Minorities in Pakistan face high levels of discrimination as well as instances of outright persecution because of their faith identities.
According to a study by the Movement for Solidarity and Peace Pakistan, an estimated 1,000 Christian and Hindu women are abducted, forcefully married, and forcefully converted to Islam every year. Sexual assaults and fraudulent marriages are used by perpetrators to entrap victims and authorities are often complicit.
A special parliamentary commission was established in November 2019 to deal with the issue of forced conversions. However, this commission has taken little action to confront the issue, punish perpetrators, or protect victims.