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ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on Religious Affairs and Inter-faith Harmony on Monday rejected, “The Protection of the Rights of Religious (Minorities) (Amendment) Bill, 2020” by vote of majority and the opinion of the Ministry of Religious Affairs.

The meeting of the Standing Committee was held under the chairmanship of Chairman Committee Senator Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, here on Monday. The Standing Committee reviewed in detail the Protection of the Rights of Religious (Minorities) (Amendment) Bill 2020 introduced by Senator Javed Abbasi in the Senate session on August 24, 2020.

Abbasi said that that bill had been discussed earlier. He said that Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah in his numerous speeches had spoken about the complete freedom of religion for minorities and the Constitution of Pakistan also provides complete religious freedom to all minorities living in the country. He said that Article 20 has been included in the constitution under which no legislation has been enacted in which punishments and fines are imposed in this regard, and a decision of the court was also taken in this regard. “Forced conversions are not allowed in our religion, and there have been cases of forced conversions by marrying young girls,” he said. Punishment should be fixed for these people. This law has been proposed by the federation. The provinces can also adopt it.

At which, the secretary Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony informed the committee that after the 18th amendment many things have been transferred to the provinces. The provinces take care of the issues related to protection of minorities. However, a committee has been constituted under the chairmanship of Senator Anwarul Haq Kakar comprising members of both the houses to review and redress the issue of forced conversion. He said that hate speech against any religion could be punished with three years of imprisonment and a fine of more than Rs 50,000.

At which the chairman of the committee said that the religious freedom enjoyed by the minorities in Pakistan was unmatched in any other country in the world. The present government is even constructing places of worship for the minorities. There is no restriction on educational institutions of minorities.

Abdul Ghafoor Haideri said that the “Qadianis”, who deny the finality of prophet-hood of Hazarat Muhammad (SAW) and are also declared non-Muslims in the 1973 constitution, do not recognize this decision of the parliament. If they recognize themselves as non-Muslims, they will be treated like other minorities and the quarrel will end, he said.

Senator Sirajul Haq said that no complaint regarding minorities has come up in the educational curriculum till date. The word minority should be removed from the constitution and Pakistani community should be written.

Senator Keshoo Bai and Brigadier John Kenneth Williams (retd) said the bill was good and should be passed. Minorities will get more protection.

The standing committee rejected the bill by majority vote and the opinion of the Ministry of Religious Affairs

The Standing Committee of the Muslim Family Laws Amendment Bill 2020, introduced in the Senate session on October 26, 2020 by Senator Javed Abbasi, after a detailed review, unanimously passed the bill.

The Guardian and Wards Amendment Bill 2021 presented by Senator Javed Abbasi in the Senate session on January 25, 2021, was approved by the Standing Committee after a detailed review.

The matter of public importance regarding “proper mechanism of disposal of Quranic verses published” was raised by Senator Fida Mohammad in the Senate session on January 25, 2021, which was reviewed in detail.

The secretary Ministry of Religious Affairs said that a mechanism has been proposed which will be submitted to the Cabinet for approval soon.

A recycling plant will be set up in the federal capital to remove old copies of Quran and verses published in the paper.

The provinces have also been informed.

Senator Fida Mohammad said that the paper used in the Quran should also be standard quality.

The committee was informed that desecration of the holy Quran is punishable by life imprisonment.

Senator Fida Mohammad said that a recycling project had been planned in Lahore at a cost of Rs40 million in 2013 but it had not been implemented yet.

Chairman Committee Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri said that there should be an effective mechanism of printing and error monitoring of the holy Quran.

He said that keeping in view this sacred purpose, the Ministry of Religious Affairs should visit all the four provinces and hold joint meetings with the provincial governments and take steps to preserve the old copies of the Quran and verses.

The secretary, Ministry of Religious Affairs said that the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting should be informed to oblige the newspapers to avoid printing of Quranic verses in the newspapers so as to avoid their improper disposal.

He said that an amendment bill has been drafted regarding the holy Quran in which a board has been proposed which will also monitor all these matters and printing of holy Quran and standard quality of paper will also be ensured.

Senator Fida Mohammad said that two brothers have built a 3.5km-long tunnel in Balochistan province and have preserved about 40 million old copies of the Quran.

If two brothers can do that, then the Ministry of Religious Affairs can do a better job.

The meeting of the Standing Committee was attended among others by Sirajul Haq, Haji Momin Khan Afridi, Keshoo bai, Brigadier (retired) John Kenneth Williams, Muhammad Javed Abbasi, and Fida Muhammad besides secretary Ministry of Religious Affairs, DG Ministry of Religious Affairs, and officials of Ministry of Law.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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