When the Sindh government passed the protection of minorities bill, it was lauded for its courage to rectify the wrongs carried out against the minorities of the province. It is highly regrettable that it has decided to backtrack on that promise and has decided to review the protection of minorities bill, after some religious scholars objected to some of its clauses claiming that they were against the teachings of Islam and contrary to the Constitution.

The decision was indicated in a policy statement issued by Senior Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Nisar Ahmad Khuhro, who is also the Sindh chapter president of the PPP. His statement recalled that according to Surah Al-Baqar Ayat 256 of the Holy Quran the religion could not be changed forcibly, therefore, no Muslim could think contrary to the teachings nor could legislate such a law. His logic is interesting, to say the least. By this argument murder is also contrary to Islamic teachings, and so, should that practice also avoid legislation, since no Muslim would ever dare to commit murder?

According to Mr. Khuhro, “Forcible conversion to the religion and solemnissing wedding under 18 years of age was contrary to the Shariat and constitution and the Sindh assembly has not carried any legislation against Shariat and the constitution but only forcible conversion of religion under 18 years of age and getting married has been declared illegal.” Admitting that it is indeed against Shariah to forcibly convert a person, why then is this bill being reviewed? His statements are purely from fear of religious parties and affiliates protesting, rather than for any concern for the well being of minorities.

The bill was the first of its kind in Pakistan and could have encouraged other provinces to follow suit. Rather, it has only set the precedent that enough protest, even once a bill has been accepted by a majority, can upset progressive reforms. No wonder assemblies are plagued by low attendance and boycotts, because the real legislation is done elsewhere. When “religious experts” get to decide what bill should be passed in Pakistan, rather than elected representatives of the people, the Sindh Assembly is protecting the wrong minority.