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THE GULF CONNECT TO FORCED CONVERSIONS

Lawmakers, caretakers hand in gloves with culprits

The Aurat Foundation and the Movement for Solidary and Peace estimate that 1500 women and girls from religious minorities are abducted, forcibly converted and then married off to their abductor’s every year in Pakistan.Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and the volunteer group, Responsible for Equality and Liberty, also estimate that 30-35 Hindu girls are abducted every month in Pakistan.

Failure of govt to protect Forced Conversions

The state has the responsibility to provide protection against individuals or organizations that try to convert people by resorting to means of coercion or by directly exploiting situations of particular vulnerability. They also have a responsibility to ensure that forced conversions do not occur in the context of marriage or marriage negotiations.
However, it appears that Pakistan is failing to protect the rights of vulnerable minorities from forced conversions and forced marriages.

In most cases, the victim is abducted and is then subjugated to sustained emotional and physical abuse often involving threats of violence towards their loved ones. Evidence provided by numerous NGOs, journalists and academics have shown that abductions and forced conversions are one of the most serious problems facing Hindu and Christian women and girls.

Pakistan reports that the police often turn a blind eye to reports of abduction and forced conversions thereby creating impunity for perpetrators. The police will often either refuse to record a First Information Report or falsify the information, thereby denying families the chance to take their case any further.

Both the lower and higher courts of Pakistan have failed to follow proper procedures in cases that involve accusations of forced marriage and forced conversions. The judiciary are often subject to fear of reprisal from extremist elements, in other cases the judicial officers’ personal beliefs influence them into accepting the claims made that the woman/girl converted on her own free will.

There is often no investigation into the circumstances under which the conversion takes place and the age of the girl is often ignored. The girl/woman involved is largely left in the custody of her kidnapper throughout the trial process where she is subject to further threats to force her into denying her abduction and rape and claiming that the conversion was willing.

The Gulf and the Madrasa connect To Forced Conversions

In November 2016, a Bill criminalizing forced religious conversions was passed unanimously by the Sindh Provisional Assembly. However, the Bill failed to make it into law as the then Governor, Mr. Saeed-uz-Zaman Siddiqui, returned it in January 2017. Mr. Siddiqui died shortly afterward. The Bill was effectively blocked by the mobilization of the Islamist groups and parties.

The increasing number of madrassas and other religious institutions has an important relationship with forced conversions and forced marriages. Most religious institutions, local mosques, and seminaries fail to investigate the nature of the conversion or question the age of the bride.

The spread of madrassas exacerbates the problem of forced conversions in Sindh; the number of madrassas have increased rampantly with support from foreign funds, largely from the Gulf monarchies.

Lawmakers, caretakers hand in gloves with culprits

The Bharchundi Sharif Shrine is famous for conversions of young Hindu girls. The documentary Thrust into Heaven names Mian Mithoo of Ghotki and Pir Sarhandi of Umerkot as two of the most powerful clerics who facilitate these conversions.

But the pictures above clearly indicate that the culprits have the blessings of the caretakers of Pakistan. So it is merely an eyewash when PM Imran Khan launches a probe in cases of abduction & forced conversions.  

28 Mar 2019/ Thursday                                                               Written By Rubeena Hajra

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