MINORITIES & FORCED CONVERSIONS

Atrocities on minorities in Sindh

Abductions and forced conversions is an issue faced by all of the minority religions across Pakistan, but in particular, is the most serious problem facing Hindu and Christian women and girls. The Aurat Foundation and the Movement for Solidary and Peace estimate that approx 2000 women and girls from religious minorities are abducted, forcibly converted and then married off to their abductors every year.

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.

Harya’s horrid tale of abduction & conversion

In a village in the Umerkot district of Pakistan’s Sindh province, 17-year-old Harya was kidnapped, hers was one of only two Hindu families. Her parents said she disappeared after going to fetch water from the village well.

A few hours later, her family tracked footsteps from the well to an influential household in the village but was told she was not there. Later that night, they called the police. After two weeks Harya was presented in a local civil court and was declared a Muslim and the wife of the man who had abducted her.

Her parents spent everything they had, even sold their only buffalo for $1,000 to get their daughter back. A higher court finally ruled in their favor.

It is reported that the police often turns a blind eye to reports of abduction and forced conversions thereby creating impunity for perpetrators. Many religious institutions, local mosques, and seminaries fail to investigate the nature of the conversion or the age of the bride and mostly simply accept the word of the abductor. Some organizations, like
Minhaj-ul-quran, routinely and as a matter of official policy, encourage the practice of converting members of minority communities by offering rewards for successful conversions. They say that it is the equivalent of Haj-e-Akbari, or the greatest religious duty to Muslims.

No escape from Debt bondage or Debt slavery for minorities in Sindh

According to the International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN) the majority of the so-called Untouchable, or Scheduled Castes (Dalits) in Pakistan are Hindus in the Sindh region.  Dalits and Hindus also make up a large part of Sindh’s landless bonded labour , that forms the backbone of the economy in both agriculture and brick kilns. However, the land and business owners see the profits whilst the labourers live in abject poverty due to being tied as a result of debt, their labour being used as payment. They remain tied to the land where they are forced to work as slaves with very little recourse to justice or protection from predation by their landlords.

Hindus, both Dalits, and non-Dalits, even if they aren’t in bonded labour, are forced into low-status jobs that many Muslims refuse to take, such as sweeping streets or sewage cleaning. This shows that the government has clearly failed to remove discrimination in jobs. This lack of socioeconomic power perpetuates the weak position of Hindus in society.

Hindus are vulnerable in Pakistan, the will needed to address these issues is largely missing.

The HRCP has found that whilst all citizens in Pakistan face obstacles in access to justice minority religious groups face ‘even greater difficulties in the pursuit of justice. The destruction of community buildings and temples also leaves Hindus vulnerable due to a lack of community protection and cohesion.

The police forces, which are overwhelmingly Muslim, generally sympathize with the goal of converting religious minorities. In limited instances of police intervention, local leaders exert considerable pressure to prevent any action.

In court, usually, it’s just four or five members of the girl’s family against hundreds of armed people for the boy. In such a situation when they are unarmed and outnumbered, how can they fight their cases in court?

The media too is often silent on the problem of forced conversion. They also contribute to the social milieu that encourages the process of conversion of religious minorities by celebrating conversions without inquiring into the
circumstances. Television programmes will hail converts to Islam and conversions and sometimes televised in religious programmes, especially during the month of Ramadan.

Forced conversions are against the commands of Allah: Imran Khan

In October 2017, while running for the premiership the then PTI Chief Imran Khan,  had spoken out against forcibly converting non-Muslims by force. What happened to those false promises is for all to see. Meanwhile, atrocities on minorities continue unabated.

13 Feb 19/Wednesday                                                                  Written by Afsana