PCMR adopts resolution calling upon government to ensure freedom of religion for all and curb forced conversions

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The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) and the Peoples Commission for Minority Rights (PCMR) jointly organized a stakeholders consultation on ‘Faith Conversions and Religious Freedom’ at Lahore.

The meeting was attended by minority rights activists, civil society leaders, journalists and prominent activists including, Ravi Kumar (MPA), Joseph Francis, Retired Justice Kailash Kohli, Ali Pahl (Advocate), senior Advocate Bhagwandas, Pushpa Kumari and Peter Jacob (Chairperson Peoples Commission for Minorities Rights).

The participants voiced civil society concerns about the recurring complaints of forced conversions which call for practical measures to curb the phenomenon of forced faith conversions of religious minorities in Pakistan.

Mr. Jacob  emphasized on understanding the circumstances of faith conversions in Pakistan and how the other contextual factors such as Violence against Women & Girls (VAWG), religious discrimination, poverty and demography particularly play into disadvantage of the young women belonging to religious minorities.

Mr. I.A. Rehman, a prominent human rights activist, emphasized upon the collective duty of the State and society to ensure that victims of forced conversions have ready and meaningful access to justice.

Retired Justice Kailash Nath Kohli reiterated upon the need to institutionalize legal safeguards by enacting a specific and comprehensive legislative framework to deal with forced conversion cases.

A position paper titled, ‘Is Forced Conversion in Pakistan a Legitimate Concern?’, prepared by CSJ and PCMR, was also presented during the consultation. In addition to providing a working definition for forced conversion, the paper also cites data pertaining to conversions since 2000, as recorded by different sources that estimate the number to run into thousands.

At the end, participants unanimously adopted a resolution calling upon the Federal and Provincial governments and their subsidiary bodies to undertake a range of legal, policy and administrative measures aimed at the prevention and elimination of forced conversions in Pakistan. Among other things, the resolution issued a call to the Ministry of Human Rights to constitute a Committee of experts for examining the bills presented in the National Assembly with the objective of preparing one single draft to be presented as a joint draft of the Treasury and the Opposition.

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