Bill aiming to protect Christians, other minority groups in Pakistan may soon be law
A new bill passed by the Pakistani Parliament earlier this week seeks to protect religious minorities, including Christians, from being killed in mob lynchings or endure forced conversions to Islam and forced marriages to Muslim husbands.
The bill, Criminal Laws (Amendment) Act 2016, is set to become law, pending presidential signature, Premier reported.
The amendments seek to increase maximum jail sentence for inciting sectarian violence, to outlaw mass lynchings, and to punish forced conversions and forced marriages of minor girls or women, something which Christians have suffered from for many years.
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As Wilson Chowdhry, chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, told The Christian Post, however, there is skepticism that the new set of laws are not "simply lip service."
"There are already laws that could be implemented in cases of mob violence but they are rarely enacted, and when done so fail, due to frightened witnesses absenting themselves from court," he said.
Chowdhry pointed to the recent acquittal of all 115 suspects in the burning of more than 150 houses of Christians in 2013 over alleged blasphemy of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.
"It is the implementation of the laws that is the crux of the problem, with a lack of desire from police due to a rife bribery culture and animosity toward 'ritually impure' Christians," he added.
Some Christian groups have expressed hope that there will be positive change, however, such as Samuel Pyara, president of Bright Future Society.