KARACHI: The Sindh government has started deliberations with different stakeholders to frame laws to curb the increasing number of forced conversions and ensure the registration of marriages of religious minorities.
A meeting presided over by Sindh Law Minister Dr Sikandar Mandhro on Tuesday at the Sindh Assembly decided to form a three- member committee, comprising former judge of the Supreme Court, Justice (Retd) Rana Bhagwandas, first female judge of High Court in Pakistan, Justice (Retd) Majida Rizi, and senior advocate Jhamat Mal. The members of the committee will prepare the first draft of the bills by consulting different stakeholders, including elected representatives from minorities, law experts, and human rights and civil society activists.
“We want to expedite this process in order to pass both the bills as soon as we can. The first meeting of the newly formed committee would be held before Eidul Fitr,” the law minister informed the media.
PPP’s minority MPAs, including Dr Lal Chand Ukrani, Mukesh Kumar Chawla and Giyanoo Mal Esrani, attended the meeting along with officials of the law department.
“Not only women but even minor children, especially girls, are forced at gunpoint to convert,” said PPP’s MPA Dr Khatumal Jeewan. He called for a complete ban on early marriages below the age of 18 years.
“We have no objection if any Hindu girl converts out of free-will. But, we cannot tolerate if they are kidnapped, kept in custody for months and then married off,” he said.
Dr Ukrani, who is also president of the PPP’s minority wing, said that the issue of registration of marriages of religious minorities, including Hindus, needed to be addressed soon. “Our people cannot process their applications for immigration. It has become difficult for us even to make passports and national identity cards as there is no procedure to register the marriages of religious minorities,” he lamented.
MPA Esrani demanded an authority to register marriages of minorities, saying that otherwise no marriage or divorce in the Hindu community would have a legal status.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 17th, 2013.
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