After opposition from Pakistan's Ministry of Religious Affairs, a parliamentary committee on Wednesday rejected the anti-forced conversion bill amid protest from the lawmakers belonging to minority communities in the country.
Irked by opposition to the bill, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Member of the Provincial Assembly (MNA) Lal Chand Malhi was quoted by Dawn newspaper as saying that rejection of the bill will result in minorities being cornered and turn their lives into a "living hell", reported Dawn.
"You are cornering minorities and such decisions [rejecting the bill] will make life a living hell for minorities in this country," he said.
Malhi claimed that the bill had not been rejected by the Ministry of Religious Affairs or the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) but had been dismissed on the instructions of Mian Mithu.
Mithu, the pir of Bharchundi Sharif, has been blamed for the forced conversions of Hindu girls in rural Sindh.
The bill came under discussion during a meeting of the Parliamentary Committee to Protect Minorities from Forced Conversions, where Religious Affairs Minister Noorul Haq Qadri said the "environment is unfavourable" for formulating a law against forced conversions, reported Dawn.
He warned that forming a law on forced conversions would deteriorate peace in the country and "create further problems for minorities". "They (the minorities) will be made more vulnerable," the minister said.
Young people from minority community are generally kidnapped in broad daylight and forcibly converted to Islam. Meanwhile, Muslim members had taken the stance that forced conversion was not a problem in Pakistan, reported Dawn.
Moreover, PTI lawmaker Ramesh Kumar said that while they were not opposing willful conversions, many Hindus were promised money and marriages in order to lure them into converting to Islam.
"And when they are not given what they are promised, they return home. This means that they did not convert of their own free will," he added.
He went on to say that opposing legislation against forced conversion indicated that the "government is worried about [the reaction by] elements involved" in the problem, reported Dawn.
Clerics had expressed reservations over the bill in August, calling it a conspiracy and suggesting that the government should not fall into the trap of the West by taking it to parliament.
At a meeting, chaired by Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) Chairperson Dr Qibla Ayaz, they had reviewed the draft bill and objected to several clauses, including the minimum age of conversion.
A copy of the draft bill, which is available with Dawn, shows that any non-Muslim, who is not a child, and is able and willing to convert to another religion will apply for a conversion certificate from an additional sessions judge of the area where he or she is residing.
The draft law highlights that the application will have to include the name of a non-Muslim who is willing to change the religion, age and gender, CNIC number, details of parents, siblings, children and spouse (if any), current religion and the reason to convert to the new religion.
The proposed law states that the "Judge may award a time period of 90 days to the non-Muslim to undertake a comparative study of the religions and return to the office of the Additional Sessions Judge."
The judge will, after satisfaction will issue the certificate of change of religion.
The proposed law also awards punishment between five to 10 years and a fine from Rs100,000 to Rs200,000 to any person who uses criminal force to convert a person to another religion.
While any person who is an abettor to a forced conversion will be liable to imprisonment from three to five years and a fine of Rs 100,000.
It has been highlighted that the age of the person willing to convert his/her religion will be determined by either the child's birth certificate, or school enrolment certificate, or Nadra B-Form.
"Only in the absence of such forms the child's age may be determined on the basis of a medical examination," the draft added.
The proposed law also states that the case of forced conversion will have to be disposed of within 90 days by the court, while appeal against a conviction or acquittal of an offence under this Act can be presented before the respective high court within ten days from the date on which copy of the order passed by the Court of Session is supplied to the appellant, Dawn reported.