‘Forced conversion of minorities’
Sindh Assembly refers resolution to law dept
By Razzak Abro
KARACHI: The Sindh Assembly (SA) on Wednesday referred a resolution to the provincial law department ‘to stop forced conversion’ of minorities, especially the Hindu girls in the country.
The resolution was jointly moved by the ruling Pakistan People’s Party’s (PPP) minority MPAs Pitambar Sewani and Saleem Khurshed Khokhar.
No lawmaker opposed contents of the resolution, however, some of his own party MPAs, including female lawmakers, strongly rejected his claim that Muslims are forcibly marrying Hindu girls.
“The (Hindu) girls marry on their own will”, said PPP’s female lawmaker Farheen Mughal, while speaking on the resolution. She and her other party colleagues were of the view that the Islam do not permit forced marriages.
Another female lawmaker of the party, Shama Arif Mithani, said that the non-Muslims should not oppose marriages of minorities’ girls with Muslims, as these are held according to their own will.
The mover of the resolution, Pitambar, however, told the house that Hindu girls were being kidnapped and forcibly married in the Sindh. He termed such incidents a great injustice with minorities and urged the government to make legislation to stop the practice.
He said: “Nobody will object if the conversion or marriages are held by consent.” But he became emotional on the issue by saying that the minorities were being given very wrong message through such practice.
“What message is being given to Hindus? Don’t (force Hindus to) create Nau Mals. Hindus will not leave the Sindh. Today you are worried due to Balochs, and tomorrow you could worry due to Hindus (also)”, he went to say.
Parliamentary leader of the ruling PPP Pir Mazharul Haq, Law Minister Ayaz Soomro, PPP’s Humera Alwani and MQM’s parliamentary leader Syed Sardar Ahmed were among those who supported the contents of the resolution, but said that it should be confirmed before taking up it that whether any law already exists or not to stop forced conversions.
Soomro and Haq quoted Articles 20 and 36 of the Constitution as saying that both the articles protect minorities’ rights and religion in the country. Haq said that people of Sindh believe in Sufism, which allows everyone to have any belief, and prohibits every kind of force. He endorsed his minority member’s claim that incident of forced marriages with Hindu girls occurred in Sindh, but said that similar cases were also witnessed with Muslim girls, especially minor girls, at the hands of the Muslim people.
Sindh Women Development Minister Tauqir Fatima Bhutto advised the house that any issue pertaining to religion should first be examined by a committee before taking up in the house. PPP’s Dr Sikandar Mandhro, who was presiding over the house proceedings, in capacity of a member of Panel of Chairmen, finally sent the resolution to the law department for seeking its legal opinion.
Earlier, the house unanimously passed the Sindh Irrigation (Amendment) Bill 2011, authorising the provincial government to get vacate encroachments on natural outlets of irrigation and flood water. Under the bill, the house introduced amendments in Sindh Irrigation Act, 1879.
Soomro told the house that the bill was needed after the province received severe damages due to last year’s heavy rains. According to him, the damages were experienced due to inadequate flow of water through natural or artificial depression courses, which were obstructed due to encroachments.
He said that the amendment had been brought with a view to remove the encroachments from natural or artificial depression courses on the government lands for smooth flow of rainwater.
According to the amended bill, the government would resume the land of all natural or artificial depression courses meant for discharge of flood or rainwater in the province. The persons who have encroached the land will have to vacate it within seven days of promulgation of the law, otherwise they will be punished up to 10 years imprisonment along with fine of Rs 1 million.
Sindh Information Minister Shazia Marri, Culture Minister Sassui Palijo, PPP’s Dr Sikandar Mandhro, Jam Tamachi Unnar and Humera Alwani, the MQM’s Heer Ismaeel Sohu, PML-F’s Nusrat Saher Abbasi and others also spoke in support of the bill. Some of the lawmaker urged the government to ensure implementation of the bill in letter and spirit.