PAKISTAN: Supreme Court urged to take a stand on forced conversions, uphold justice 

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) wishes to forward to you the following press release from Catholic (National) Commission for Justice and Peace.

Asian Human Rights Commission
Hong Kong


A Press Release from Catholic (National) Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP)  forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)

Fr. Emmanuel Yousaf and Peter Jacob, the representatives of the Catholic (National) Commission for Justice and Peace have urged the Chief Justice of Pakistan to take a comprehensive look on the issue of forced conversions and a firm stand upholding justice and human rights. Referring to the recent cases of Ms. Faryal alias Rinkal Kumari, Ms. Haleema alias Asha Kumari and Ms. Hafza alias Dr. Lata, they said in a statement that the court procedures become an instrument of injustice when the principle of ‘free consent’ is applied loosely or selectively, and in disregard to the social realities.

For instance, in one of the above mentioned cases but in many cases of so called conversions of minority women the courts have overlooked ascertaining the age of the converted and whether the marrying male (Bashir Ahmad) had taken permission from his first wife according to Muslim Personal Law.  Applying the principle of free consent without looking at corroborative evidence and that too in the social context where religious freedom and gender equality is yet a pipe dream, can result in miscarriage of justice. The law and court procedures cannot work on an assumption that armed and unarmed, minority and majority, men and women enjoy the equal scope of free will in a weaponized, male dominated, violent and bigot environment.

They further said that the Supreme Court judgment on April 18, concerning this issue has worried the religious minorities who already face an existential threat, demographically but also due to rising religious intolerance in the society. The court should have looked deeper into the issue and make a principled stand with far reaching impact. A court review of three different cases should have applied legal principles of safeguarding the vulnerable. At least the same safeguards that Chief Justice Iftekhar Muhammad Chaudhry had ordered in the Mr.  Ludhani Vs. State case (SC 2005) by requiring surety for good treatment from husband and that the converted Hindu women could meet her parents after the marriage without fail.

The Supreme Court or the Government can control the damage to religious diversity by defining forced conversion according to international standards of religious freedom which inter alia includes a right to re-convert, while for us, irrespective of the free will rhetoric, if a conversion comes simultaneously with marriage and the newly converted cannot meet her parents, then it is not an exercise of free choice of religion beyond a reasonable doubt. The Supreme Court therefore should take full cognizance of the matter of conversions under duress and any cover up for crimes under the pretext of conversion.
The statement also said that Catholic (National) Commission for Justice and Peace would be happy to aid the Supreme Court or any other forum if a comprehensive review of the issues is desired to ensure equality of citizens.”

Fr. Emmanuel Yousaf Mani, National Director

Peter Jacob, Executive Director

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Document Type : Forwarded Press Release
Document ID : AHRC-FPR-016-2012
Countries : Pakistan,