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“All these things are un-Islamic. If God had not given his messengers the power to impose their beliefs on someone, who are we (to do so).Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan on Jul 29, 2019, made few statements about the forced conversions which were probably heard only after Mohammed Ali Jinnah.

He said there was no precedent in Islamic history for forcefully converting others, and those who do so “know neither the history of Islam, nor their religion, the Quran or Sunnah.” Big statement indeed! One of his ministers Shireen Mazari tweeted:

The Truth

However, Pakistan, in the entire world has been infamous for forced marriages and forced conversions. Few months back, in Sindh, the incident of forced marriage of two Hindu sisters Reena and Raveena had become the face of forced religious conversion in Pakistan. They were abducted, forced to convert to Islam, and married off to Muslim men in a shocking incident. Inspite of assurances and promises for justice by the Prime Minister himself, no one was punished as the girls were in all probability threatened to admit to having converted to Islam willingly.

Targeting Christian and Hindu girls from poor families and low castes has been a practice which is going on for years now. As per the Pakistani human rights group, in year 2018 only, more than 1000 girls were forcibly converted to Islam. With such track record what impact will the statement of Imran Khan will have, only time will tell.

Incidents of Forced Conversions

As per the Hindus and Christians of Pakistan there are frequent cases of forced conversions but very few are reported and find a place in the media. In most of the cases family of the victims are paid some money to remain quiet or threatened with dire consequences. In some cases the abductors have even demanded money from the parents to get their daughters back.

In 2003, a mere six year old girl of a Sikh family was kidnapped in Northwest Frontier Province and forcibly converted to Islam. She never came back to her parents. In Charsadda, in 2007, Christian community were asked to convert or be ready to be bombed and killed. It is said that as the Christians refused the dictate, one of the Christian man was raped and killed brutally for refusing to convert.

Worst was the incident of Pasrur, where 57 Hindus decided to convert to keep their job as their Muslim owner was no longer ready to provide them job being non-Muslims. In the same year 14 members of a Hindu family too became the victims in a similar case.

In 2012, three Hindu girls, Rinkle Kumari, Lata Kumari and Asha Kumari working in a beauty parlour, were forced to convert and marry. Their cases reached all the way to the Supreme Court of Pakistan where they requested to be united with their parents. They did not want to live with their husbands. Even Sikhs of Hangu district were pressured to convert to Islam by Yaqoob Khan, the assistant commissioner of Tall Tehsil, though it was denied by the latter.

In Mar 2019, 16 year old Suneeta and her 12 year old sister were kidnapped and targeted for forced conversion. “We were walking back to our house after working on the farm when men in a car came out of nowhere and dragged us in with them,” said Suneeta. “The next thing we knew, we were in a shrine being forced to say the kalma (acceptance of Islam) by a cleric.” In the same month Reena and Raveena happened.

Viewpoint

How much sincere may be the statement of Imran Khan about the forced conversions, it remains to be seen how much importance does it actually carries and accepted in a country like Pakistan?  Parents of Reena and Raveena, Hari and Ajbi Lal who were hopeful that their daughters will be returned have been left with no more hopes as  the court legalised the marriage ruling out any conversion case.

These are just the few cases but sufficient to gauge the problem of forced conversions in Pakistan. So if Imran Khan really wants to do something to safeguard the non-Muslim minority, then he has to do something concrete. Mere lecturing won’t help. Minority day celebrations on 11 August, as publicised by Pakistan, should not be celebrated for the sake of it, but it must ensure that every minority are safe and happy. Apart from the aim of the celebration i.e. to highlight the contributions, services, and sa crifices made by the minority communities in nation-building, event must stress on the well being and safety of the minorities.

31 Jul 19/Wednesday                                                   Written by Azadazraq

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