Pakistan

ISLAMABAD – Governor Justice (retd) Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui has refused to ratify the Sindh Assembly’s forced conversion bill following the advice of Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah.

Sources privy to the developments said that besides the chief minister’s advice, the governor Sindh had also received a formal request from the MQM that wanted the bill, oficially known as ‘Criminal Law (Protection of Minorities) Bill’, to be turned down.

While returning the bill, the governor also considered the resolution of the Council of Islamic Ideology, terming the bill as un-Islamic as well as taking into consideration the protests in  the purview of probable legislation.

Murad, in his advice to the governor, said that the government aimed for certain changes in the language of the bill and thus wants it not to be approved in its current form.

The MQM conveyed to the governor that the bill was passed in a rush without giving the members time for analysis.

In his observations, the governor referred to the letters written by the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), MQM parliamentary leader Sardar Ahmed, as well as the protest by religious parties, which demanded withdrawal or changes in the bill.

In November last year, the Sindh Assembly had unanimously given the go-ahead to the bill, which sparked furore as it contained some provisions that were considered un-Islamic and unconstitutional by religious groups.

The provision which stirred controversy was that ‘no person under the age of 18 could convert to Islam even out of his free will and choice’.

Following protests and threats by the religious parties, the PPP recently announced its decision to review the bill in line with Islamic teachings.

Reportedly, Co-chairman Pakistan People’s Party Asif Ali Zardari assured Ameer Jamaat-e-Islami Sirajul Haq to shoot down the recently passed bill. According to media reports, Siraj also thanked PPP for reconsidering the bill.

The Sindh Criminal Law (Protection of Minorities) Bill, 2016 was tabled by PML-F’s Nand Kumar and Khatu Mal Jeewan.

The bill also recommended at least seven years for perpetrators and five-year jail for facilitators of forced conversions. Moreover, the bill said that adults considering changing their religion be provided with a safe place to live for 3 weeks to ensure that they were making the decision out of free will.