Abductions and forced conversions is an issue faced by all of the minority religions across Pakistan, but in particular, is the most serious problem for Hindu and Christian women and girls. Every year, thousands of Hindu and Christian girls and young women are kidnapped in Pakistan and forcibly married to Muslim men. And while these forced conversions have been going on for decades, a recent surge in reported cases has brought the issue back into the limelight.
Religious Conversion Of Sikh Girl
The recent incident of abduction, forcible marriage and religious conversion of a Sikh girl of Nankana Sahib is a telling example of what minorities go through in Pakistan. Jagjit Kaur daughter of the Granthi of Nankana Sahib Gurdwara, the birthplace of Shri Guru Nanak Dev, in Pakistan, was allegedly abducted and forcibly converted to Islam after her marriage to a Muslim man. Even though India’s Ministry of External Affairs released a statement raising concerns against the case of Jagjit Kaur being abducted and forcefully converted, the girl has still not returned home, despite the guarantee given by Pakistan’s Punjab Governor Chaudhry Sarwar. In Pakistan, many such incidents are regularly reported where Hindu, Sikh and Christian girls are forcibly converted to Islam and married to Muslim men.
Many Cases Go Unreported
According to Pakistan’s own human rights commission, from January 2004 to May 2018, there were 7,430 cases of such abductions of Sindhi girls in Pakistan. The actual number is estimated to be much higher as most of the cases go unreported. This appears to be a systematic, organized trend and it needs to be seen in the broader context of the coercion of vulnerable girls and young women from communities that are already marginalized by their faith, class and socioeconomic status. The ugly reality of forced conversions is that they are not seen as a crime, much less as a problem that should concern the government of Pakistan. Due to deficiencies in policing and the complexity of the crime, the precise number who are abducted, forcibly converted and raped is difficult to ascertain. Minorities often do not receive the protection required from state institutions and lack access to justice. 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.
Hindu Girls Living In Fear
Case after case involving Hindu girls converting to Islam have emerged in courts in Pakistan’s Sindh province, home to a majority of the country’s Hindus. The allegedly forcible nature of the conversions, the almost identical pattern of the cases, and the targeting of minor girls have deeply unsettled the Hindu population. This sense of alarm feeds into a broader reckoning: 70 years after the partition of the Indian subcontinent, some Hindus are reassessing their place in Pakistan. Today Pakistan’s identity is that of an Islamic nationalist state where hard-line religious groups are a formidable force, and religious minorities have little voice in society. As influential Islamic shrines and religious groups work to convert people to Islam, some Hindus are leaving their villages and moving to cities in Pakistan, or leaving Pakistan altogether and moving to India.
Ironically, these incidents were on a rampant high in Pakistan when their Prime Minister Imran Khan was in Beijing to seek China’s support for allegations of the so-called widespread atrocities in Kashmir on global platforms ever since the region’s special status was scrapped on August 5. A nation that has so much to look into affords to send its Prime Minister on a wild goose chase, who is willingly wasting his time begging for attention on issues that do not concern them at all, as it has already been clarified internationally that Abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir is entirely an internal matter for India.
While Pakistan has been busy raising a hue and cry on the alleged brutality in Kashmir by India, its own nation has so much violence to deal with. More than70 years since Pakistan came into existence and the country still can’t protect the rights of the minorities and cannot respect its women. At the time of partition in 1947, almost 23 percent of Pakistan’s population was comprised of non-Muslim citizens. Today, the proportion of non-Muslims has declined to approximately 3 percent. Non-Muslim minorities such as Christians, Hindus and Sikhs have been the targets of suicide bomb attacks in their neighborhoods and have had community members converted to Islam against their will, and had their houses of worship attacked and bombed. In Sindh and Balochistan provinces, well-to-do Hindus have been the primary targets of the ransom kidnappings. The number of minority Muslims and non-Muslims subjected to these purposeful attacks have increased significantly and the crimes committed have become more heinous. Those accused of “blasphemy” have sometimes been burnt alive outside police stations with no culprits identified or punished. With all this happening in the country, the head of the nation has all the time to ignore these important issues and organize disastrous solidarity marches which misfire badly. It’s high time Pakistan should make a dedicated strategy to deal with all their internal issues first instead of pointing fingers at its neighbors.
15 Oct 2019/Tuesday Written by: Saima Ebrahim