The Ministry of Religious Affairs has opposed restrictions on religious conversion before the age of 18.

It said that if someone 14 years old wants to convert to any religion, they could not be stopped.

During a meeting of the Senate parliamentary committee on minorities’ rights the Minister for Religious Affairs, Noorul Haq Qadri said they did not support a restriction on religious conversion before 18.

He said that if someone wanted to change their religion before 18, that was their choice, but the marriage was a different matter.

The issue relating to a minimum age limit for marriage had been sent to the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII).

The committee also heard from Senator Danesh Kumar who said a new tradition of converting people had started in Balochistan.

Nasir Saeed, Director of the CLAAS International said that cases of young Christian and Hindu girls being forced to convert have rocketed in the recent year.

He said: “Keeping in view the present scenario and looking at the present setting a minimum age of 18 for conversion is crucial.

“I have come across at least two dozen forced conversion cases of young Christian girls in Punjab, and 90% of the girls are under sixteen.

“The police is biased and instead of being impartial and doing their duty, they become a party and intentionally delay registering a case against the kidnapper.

“They turn kidnapping cases into religion conversion and then instead of taking any action against the kidnapper, hand a conversion certificate to the parents and tell them that since the girl has converted to Islam of her own free will, therefore they cannot do anything.

“There have even been some cases where the police told the parents they should be happy because their daughter had converted to Islam.

“Sadly, Pakistani courts have also failed to do justice with victims and their families as instead of making their decision according to the country’s prevailing laws, cases are decided on the basis of the abducted girls’ statement, and also using the precedent already sets in such cases. Judges completely ignore the domestic laws and international laws.

“Such judgments are not serving the country but are going against the country. It is not just damaging the country but Islam too.

“The government must act upon the Senate parliamentary committee on minorities’ rights’ recommendations and set the minimum age at 18 years old for conversion.”