KARACHI                  -              Sindh Chief Minister (CM) Syed Murad Ali Shah has said that Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) believes in a pluralistic society, and that’s why its government in Sindh has enacted laws under which forced conversion of religion and child marriages have been completely banned.

He was talking to an American delegation, which called on him here at the CM House on Monday.

The delegation was led by Special Advisor on Religious Minorities Knox Thames, while other members were Razi Hashmi, Officer Bureau of Democracy Human Rights and labour, Anne Sackville-West Political Officer and Robert Silberstein, Consul General of the USA in Karachi.

The chief minister was assisted by Minister for Education Saeed Ghani, Minister for Religious Affairs and Local Government Syed Nasir Hussain Shah, Adviser to CM on Law Murtaza Wahab and PSCM Sajid Jamal Abro.

The chief minister said that since Sindh was the land of Sufis, therefore people of this province naturally respected human rights and believed in peaceful co-existence. “This is the reason why no incident of violence has been reported from the province involving two groups of different religions,” Murad told the visitors.

US’s Special Advisor for Religious Minorities Knox on the occasion stressed the need for educating children from primary classes on respecting people belonging to different faiths so that they could carry this trait with them in future as well.

Minister for Education Saeed Ghani said that Hindu and Christians were not bound to study the subject of Islamiat, which is compulsory for Muslim students. “They are taught civics education instead,” he informed the delegation.

He said that as an education minister he was working out a plan to impart religious education to the students of their own religion.

The chief minister told the visitors that of the three Hindu candidates his party had given tickets to in the general elections of 2018, Dr Mahesh was elected as a MNA from Tharparkar while Harim Ram and Gianchand were elected as MPAs from Mirpurkhas and Thano Boolakah, Jamshoro, respectively.

He added that the PPP had never won the seat from Mirpurkhas city. “But our Hindu candidate won this Muslim majority seat. This is an evidence how much our people respect Hindus in Sindh,” Murad boasted. He further said that it was under his government in Sindh that a law had been passed under which nobody could change his/her religion before attaining the age of 18. “Now, the forced conversion of religion has become a crime,” he said, and added that child marriage had also been banned. “Now a person can marry only when he or she is 18 years of age,” he said.

The chief minister further informed that earlier there was no law to register Hindu marriages. “But now the Sindh Assembly has passed Hindu Marriage Act under which marriages are registered legally,” the CM said.

He said that he belonged to Sehwan, the land of Sufi Lal Shahbaz Qalander where people of different religion gather to celebrate his Urs. “The same position is at other shrines such as Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, Sachal Sarmast and others where Hindu, Muslims and Christian observe their urs collectively,” he said. The visiting American delegation appreciated the Sindh government efforts for giving equal rights to the religious minorities.