One would think that if a lawmaker cannot propose well-meaning legislation on their own, the least they could do is not block bills introduced by other members of the House. Unfortunately, that is not the case for certain members of the Sindh Assembly, who, far from tackling an enormous problem in Sindh, are doing all they can to obstruct.

We are talking about the bill introduced in the Sindh Assembly which would penalise forced religious conversions. After several incidents of Hindu girls being kidnapped and forcibly converted and married off to Muslim men, our Sindh assembly law-makers heeded to the cries of help from the Hindu community and introduced this bill to take harsher measures against this menace of forced conversions. After almost a month of the submission of a bill in the Sindh Assembly against forced conversions, various religious outfits announced a country-wide protest and threatened of a vigorous protest campaign if the bill was passed by the provincial house.

According to these various religious factions, forced conversion is wrong but forcibly preventing someone from embracing Islam was also against the Shariah. This is a false and intellectually dishonest fallacy brought forward. Of course, preventing someone from embracing Islam is ethically and legally wrong, but that is not the issue that is up for debate nor will the bill erase any conversion to Islam. The bill prevents the forced conversion of minors, a concept recognised in Islam as minors can often not make decisive decisions without the consent of their ‘wali’.

The opposition presented to this bill bases itself on a false premise- forced conversion of Hindus is an unfortunate phenomenon that exists in Sindh, which is documented with many cases of forced kidnapping and conversion of Hindu women particularly. Preventing conversion to Islam, the State religion, and the religion of 98% of the population is not an institutional problem that exists, with no reported cases or evidence of it. To conflate the two is dishonest and distracting from the real human rights violations that are occurring in Sindh, which only fuel the cases of countries like India to allege that Pakistan doesn’t provide for its minorities.

We would advise the religious opposition to revise their positions and be constructive instead of outright rejecting the bill. Alternately, the PPP legislators of the assembly should not succumb to the pressure of these factions and continue pressing to pass the proposed law- they have the numbers.