'Institutional bias a hurdle to justice in forced conversion cases'.

 
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LAHORE -- 'If you even try to go there, I will rip you apart into a hundred pieces.' This is what MNA Ramesh Kumar Vankwani recalled he had to hear when he was working on the restoration of a demolished Hindu temple, from none other than a member of the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII).

Mr Vankwani was speaking in a panel discussion on forced conversions on Tuesday evening. The event was held at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (Lums) Sheikh Hassan School of Law, and included veteran rights activist and journalist I.A. Rehman, Kinnaird College lecturer Ayra Indreyas and Lums undergraduate law student Amar Lal. It was moderated by Hiba Akbar, a faculty member at the institute.

Mr Vankwani shared his experience as a Hindu parliamentarian and the struggles of preserving minority rights in a society with increasing intolerance.

Much of the discussion revolved around Mr Vankwani's proposed Protection of Minorities Bill 2019. The bill, tabled in March and addressing the issue of forced conversions, faced undisputed support from the PPP and significant backing from the PML-N, but was largely rejected by the ruling PTI. Among those who opposed the legislation was Federal Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Noorul Haq Qadri.

As Mr Vankwani explained, the bill -- instead of being forwarded to the Human Rights Standing Committee headed by PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and where Mr Vankwani says it would have been passed with considerable ease -- was redirected to the Ministry of Law and Justice and CII where it faced significant setback. He also strongly...

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