The Senate Standing Committee on Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony turned down on Monday a private bill regarding the protection of the rights of minorities, saying that the minorities were enjoying complete religious freedom in the country.
A committee meeting, chaired by Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) Senator Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, observed that the existing laws were already providing unprecedented religious freedom to minorities, adding that that the proposals in the bill were already present in the laws.
The Protection of the Rights of Religious Minorities Bill was presented by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Senator Javed Abbasi. He said that the minorities should have the opportunities to go to their sacred religious places in a free environment.
Abbasi said that 8 million Hindus lived in Pakistan, and stressed that minorities should have the opportunities to go to their sacred religious places in a free environment. He also pointed to incidents of forced conversion in Sindh and other areas.
In many cases, young girls are forcibly converted, Abbasi said, adding that the state of Pakistan would not allow such acts. “We do not treat minorities in Pakistan as [Indian Prime Minister Narendra] Modi is doing in India,” he said.
Haideri observed that the government was even constructing temples for the minorities, while minorities had the liberty to establish their religious educational institutions. He added that temple vandalising in Karak had wrongly been attributed to the Muslims.
Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Senator Sirajul Haq termed the bill a part of the agenda of non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Religious affairs ministry secretary Ejaz Khan Jaffar told the committee that the protection of the rights of minorities had been handed over to the provinces after the 18th Amendment.
During the meeting, there were heated exchanges between the members of the committee. Haq said that a minor girl cannot be married. As far as the hate speech was concerned, he added, the law should be applied to all – opposition members and the treasury members.
Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Senator Krishna Kumari Kolhi (Kishoo Bai) said that they did not seek legislation on speeches in the Senate, but on the issue of inciting people to kill and harm others. Haq said if the Sindh government did not apply the law and could not protect people it was its problem.
“What did terrorism in Machh have to do with Islam or any other religion,” Haq asked. “Terrorism has no religion,” Haideri replied. Abbasi said that he had no objection if the bill was rejected. However, Haideri said that “reject” was a strong word, instead the bill should be turned down.
later, Kishoo Bai walked out of the meeting in protest after the bill failed to pass through the committee. “You [should] reject it [bill] to show that you do not want to protect minorities,” Bai said. “I can't sit on such a committee.”
The committee endorsed the Muslim Family Law Ordinance 1961, (Amendment) Bill 2020 with the directions for further amendments to it. The bill was also moved by Senator Abbasi. He said special allowance for elderly parents, who have no other source of income, should be made part of the law.
(WITH INPUT FROM APP)