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Pakistani Court: No new law for forced conversions

Published By United Press International
ISLAMABAD, May 17 (UPI Asia) -- Pakistan's Supreme Court has ruled that there is no need for a law banning forcible religious conversion of the Islamic nation's minorities.

A three-judge bench led by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry dismissed a petition by the Pakistan Hindu Council, a body that claims to represent the interests of the country's Hindus, which had claimed that Hindu women were being forcibly converted to Islam and married to Muslim men.

The judges accepted the government's contention that Pakistan's constitution already ensured freedom to profess religion amid manage religious institutions.

"There is no necessity of a specific legislation because every citizen has the right to practise religion of his own and in case of enforced conversion the law always takes its own course," the chief justice said in the order.

The Pakistan Hindu Council had urged the Supreme Court to direct the government to write a law making it an offence to attempt to convert a person by the use of force, punishable with imprisonment.

The government cited Article 20 of the Constitution that says that every citizen shall have the right to profess, practise and propagate his religion and that every religious denomination and every sect shall have the right to establish, maintain and manage its religious institutions.

"This bench is a great supporter of minorities because they are the subject of the Constitution but sometimes we are helpless when cases of conversion do surface," the chief justice said.

The case was brought before it after three Hindu women from the Sindh province -- Rinkal Kumari, Lata and Aasha Devi were allegedly forcibly converted and forced to marry Muslim men.

The council claimed that the trend was far more serious than could be gauged from news reports.

A nation of some 180 million, Pakistan is said to have about 5 million Hindus. Tens of millions of Hindus had migrated from Pakistan to india in 1947 when the country was carved out of undivided India as the British colonial rulers departed the subcontinent.

Over the decades, it has been alleged that tens of thousands of Hindus who chose to stay back in pakistan were forcibly converted to Islam.
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