‘Prevent new converts from marrying immediately’

The recommendation from the newly-formed body of minorities was made against the backdrop of a nationwide controversy over allegations of the forcible conversion.

Islamabad: Pakistan`s National Commission for Minorities has recommended that the government enact a law whereby new converts from non-Muslim communities are prevented from marrying for at least six months after conversion, as part of measures to curb forcible conversions.

The recommendation from the newly-formed body of minorities was made against the backdrop of a nationwide controversy over allegations of the forcible conversion and marriage of three Hindu women from Sindh province, which has Pakistan`s largest population of Hindus.

The National Commission for Minorities, during its second meeting yesterday, further recommended that a judicial magistrate, and not a police officer, should independently record the statements of converts.

Currently, after receiving a complaint from the family of a convert, police registers an FIR under Article 161 of the Criminal Procedure Code and a police officer records the statement that is produced in court in the form of a charge-sheet.

However, minority communities claim statements recorded by a police officer are "mostly never based on facts", The Express Tribune said in a report.

There is a provision in Article 164 of CrPC under which a judicial magistrate can record the statement but the law is not implemented on the pretext that the magistrate is a judicial officer and should not record statements in cases that he has to ultimately decide.

The National Commission for Minorities, which is headed by the Minister for National Harmony, is a multi-party forum that includes two parliamentarians each from the Muslim, Hindu and Christian communities and one representative from the Sikh and Parsi communities.

It also includes the secretaries of Interior, Law, National Harmony and Capital Administration Development Division.

National Harmony Minister Akram Masih Gill, a Christian, said the Commission has sought recommendations from the Council of Islamic Ideology on its new proposal for barring the marriage of new converts for six months.

"There are some genuine cases where these girls convert to Islam. In some cases, there is a love affair... But in most cases the option of marriage is misused by the influentials to hide their crime.

"There are many reported cases where these girls were kept in illegal custody and repeatedly raped," Gill said.

The commission has further asked the government to ensure that the office of the chairman of the Evacuee Trust Property Board should be held by a non-Muslim.
The Board is responsible for managing the shrines and properties of minority communities.

Many of these properties have been encroached upon, illegally occupied or illegally allotted to influential people.

Sources told the daily that a draft bill on certain issues related to minorities was recently rejected by the Law Ministry on the ground that laws on these issues are already in place but were not being implemented.

According to a statement issued after yesterday`s meeting, the National Commission for Minorities decided to send a draft of the Christian and Hindu Marriage Act to parliamentarians from minority communities and other stakeholders for their recommendations so that the bill can be finalised and presented in parliament.


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