An influential Pakistani parliamentary panel has declared the conversion of women from other religions to Islam as “un-Islamic” and expressed concern over the practice.
“Forced conversion of girls to Islam is against the teachings of Islam and also a violation of the law in the country,” said Hafiz Hamdullah, chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Religious Affairs.
His remarks came in the wake of an incident in Chitral Valley, where a young woman from the animist Kalash community converted to Islam, triggering clashes between members of the community and local Muslims.
Religious minorities have argued there is no law to protect members of their faith from being forcibly converted to Islam. A recent law that formalised Hindu marriages in Pakistan too did not touch on the issue.
Hamdullah observed that non-Muslim women were being converted across Pakistan on a daily basis, which is a dilemma for society. Religion is a personal matter of every individual, and a person cannot be converted by force, he said.
Raja Zafrul Haq, the Leader of House in the Senate, too said compelling anyone to convert is against the teachings of Islam. “We are already under observation from human rights organisations due to growing incidents of forced conversions,” he said.
Senator Gian Chand, also a leader of the Pakistan Hindu Council, informed the committee that Hindu girls in Sindh province are victims of forced conversions, which have acquired alarming proportions. Chand was of the opinion that police and the local administration do not help victims or their families.
The committee urged the government to adopt a comprehensive mechanism for protecting women from minority communities. The panel directed the federal and provincial governments to draft legislation to curb the practice.
Last year, a move to criminalise forced conversions and to prevent misuse of the blasphemy law was endorsed by members of the Senate’s Functional Committee on Human Rights.