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Pakistan’s Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony has rejected a bill that proposed regulations on conversions to Islam.

“Clauses related to the 18-year age bar on religion conversion, appearance before a judge, and a 90-day waiting period in the proposed bill are anti-Sharia, illegal and in violation of the fundamental constitutional rights,” Religious Affairs Minister Pir Noor ul Haq Qadri said.

The proposed law in its present form clashes with Islamic Sharia. There is a fear that this bill can be used to stop embracing Islam. It will cause hatred among Muslim and non-Muslim communities. Islam rejects forced conversions and it is after all necessary to stop this. Such cases are very few in Pakistan but they cause notoriety.”   

Muslim clerics in Pakistan had been voicing opposition to the bill that would only allow “mature people” to change their religion. A parliamentary committee to protect minorities from forced conversions recommended in February that only a “mature person” (adult) may be allowed to change religion after appearing before an additional sessions judge.

“This is condemnable and a denial to protect the religious minorities of Pakistan. They have made up their minds to convert each and every individual from minority religions including members of parliament who have already taken an oath as Muslims under Schedule 3 of the constitution,” Anjum James Paul (chairman of the Pakistan Minorities Teachers’ Association) said.

Last month a media release by the global civil society alliance CIVICUS said Pakistan continues to fall far short of its human rights obligations three years after Imran Khan took office as prime minister.

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