Syed Abdul Rasheed, MPA of Muttahida Majlis Amal, scaled the gate of the Sindh Assembly on Tuesday, in a bid to disrupt the passing of the Minorities Protection Bill.
Abdul Rashid was quoted by the Express Tribune as saying that the proposed bill was an attempt to "ban conversion to Islam" demanding that the assembly be suspended. Stating that he was barred from entry to the proceedings, the MMA lawmaker forced his way in by scaling the door and managed to participated in the assembly proceedings. He further remarked that such actions that prevent the lawmakers from speaking and protesting are against democratic values.
Tweets under the hashtag #WeStandWithSARasheed soon surfaced, defending the MMA lawmakers actions under the pretense of democracy and Islamophobia.
Some praised the MPA’s commitment despite facing hurdles, while another mentioned that Rasheed is "the real voice of the common man."
“We will represent our people and will not allow our voice to be silenced under any circumstances,” Rasheed was quoted as saying in the paper.
Rasheed has been a long-standing MMA leader and activist who was elected from PS 108 (Lyari) and holds a reputable position in political and social circles. He is known to have taken up the grievances of those living in Lyari calling out the corrupt practices being carried out in various institutions during his constituency.
Earlier in March 2021, he questioned the government's neglect of the rising drug use in Lyari Town, maintaining that the youth in the neighborhood have been victims of increasing drug trafficking and need to be provided proper health and education facilities.
He was in the news in May for his proposal of a bill titled "The Sindh Compulsory Marriage Act, 2021" which would make marriage compulsory for 18 year olds. Parents who don't marry off their 18 year old would be required to "submit an undertaking with justified reason of delay before the Deputy Commissioner of the District". If they failed to do so, they would be fined Rs.500.
The bill was rejected by the Sindh Assembly in June 2021.
One Twitter user noted the parallels between Rasheed's previous actions and his scaling the gates yesterday, mentioning that "there are patterns".
The "Protection of the Rights of Religious Minorities Bill" seeks to protect minority women and girls from forced conversions and kidnapping. Furthermore, it also looks at the need for implementation of five per cent quota reserved for minorities in government jobs, inclusion of religious books of minorities in curriculum, provision of security to sensitive minorities’ religious places, registration of minorities’ religious places and their maintenance and improvement of the social and economic conditions of minorities.
Previously a bill against forced conversion was passed by the Sindh Assembly in 2016 but was returned by the Governor due to opposition by Islamist groups and parties. Similarly, in 2019, a bill against forced conversion was proposed by Hindu politicians in the Sindh Assembly only to be turned down by the PPP lawmakers. In 2020, the "Protection of the Rights of Religious Minorities Bill" was introduced in the Senate but was turned down by the Senate Standing Committee on Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony earlier in February 2021.
While many showed support for Rasheed, others expressed the absurdity of both his actions and words.