The Greater Impact of Forced Conversion of Minorities in Pakistan
The practice of forced conversion of minorities to Islam is a growing menace in Pakistan. The story is always the same. A minor girl is kidnapped at gunpoint, kept in custody for 2-3 days, forced to record her statement on camera saying she has willingly converted, married off to men who are twice her age, and is subjected to rape. The girl is left with absolutely no option. If she is produced in the court and tells the truth, she is sentenced to death as she has already accepted Islam (under pressure) and now the punishment for apostasy in Islam, is death. No, this is not a wattpad fanfiction. This is the harsh reality of the condition of minorities in Pakistan.
(Protest against forced conversion of Hindu girls conducted by Pakistan Hindu Council. Source: Pakistan Hindu Council)
According to the Child Protection activists, these forced conversions are a money-making network which involves Islamic clerics, magistrates, who legalise the union, and corrupt local police who aid the culprits by refusing to research, investigate or sabotage investigations by destroying evidence. Child Protection activist Jibran Nasir says that ‘These forced conversions are part of a mafia that preys on vulnerable minority girls for older men with pedophilia urges’.The culprit involved in forcibly converting a non-Muslim girl to Islam are brain washed to believe that such deeds are honourable which will help them earn a place in heaven.
The Pakistan Muslim League politician Haresh Chopra has stated that abduction and forced conversion of Hindus and Sikhs girls is a business in Pakistan done by organized gangs of mullahs and terrorists.There are over a 1000 yearly reported cases of minority girls being forcefully converted in Pakistan.
The report “Minorities and Forced Conversion in Pakistan” released by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) points out that the persecution has forced hundreds of thousands of Christians, Hindus and other minority women to convert to Islam. It also highlights how various state agencies have been involved in this sinister trend, resulting in forced conversions or marriages between minor girls and adult men.
There are over a 1000 yearly reported cases of minority girls being forcefully converted in Pakistan. They never receive justice as there is yet to be a law passed against this inhumane practise. In majority of cases, the police refuse to lodge FIR. Even if the case gains mainstream media coverage, police still favour the abductors as they are on a payroll by these agencies.
(A photo of the conversion ceremony of a 13-year-old Hindu girl named Kavita Bai was allegedly kidnapped by a man, forcibly converted to Islam and then married off to her abductor in the Kashmore district of Pakistan’s Sindh province. Source: TOI)
At the time of partition in 1947, non muslim citizens constituted almost 23 percent of Pakistan’s population. Today, the proportion of non-Muslims stands at approximately 3 percent. The division among Muslim denominations have also become far more intensified over the years. Other Muslim groups such as the Shias who account for approximately 20-25 percent of Pakistan’s Muslim population, Ahmadis who have been declared non-Muslims by the state, and non-Muslim minorities such as Christians, Hindus and Sikhs have been the targets of religious persecution in the form of suicide bomb blasts, conversion and vandalization of places of worship.
Over 5000 Sikhs, Hindus and other minority groups escape Pakistan yearly, citing religious persecution, in the form of forced conversion, as one of their top reasons. The minorities in general do not have equal rights. Non-muslims are prohibited from becoming Prime Minister or President in Pakistan. They are also persecuted under blasphemy laws and discriminated against, in the job market.
Effects and Consequences
A survey conducted by the Pakistan Hindu Seva welfare Trust found that the majority of the Hindu families don’t send their girl children to schools due to the fear of forced conversion. This has led to a growing number of Hindus, Sikhs, Christian and other minority girls being educationally illiterate, economically poor and politically unaware of their rights, keeping the entire community backward and resulting in a socio-economic crisis in the communities.
Pakistani minority communities are demanding the government to pass an anti forced conversion bill to protect the young vulnerable members of the community. In November 2016, a bill against forced conversion was passed unanimously by the Sindh Provincial Assembly. However, the bill failed to make it into law as the Governor returned the bill due to large protests and burning of public property by these agencies and the public. Consequently, the Bill was effectively blocked by the Islamist groups and parties like the Council of Islamic Ideology and Jamaat-e-Islami. In 2019, a bill against forced conversion was proposed by Hindu politicians in the Sindh assembly, but was turned down by the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party lawmakers.
In 2020 “Protection of the Rights of Religious Minorities Bill” was introduced in the Senate of Pakistan that could prevent forced conversions of minority girls, but it was turned down by the Senate Standing Committee on Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony chaired by Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam senator Abdul Ghafoor Haideri. Krishna Kumari Kolhi, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Senator, walked out of the senate to show her solidarity with the minorities and also as a form of protest.
Everyday hundreds of pleas for help go unheard and it is high time the International community held Pakistan responsible for its inhumane treatment of its minorities. Pakistan was founded to serve as a home for South Asian Muslims, and not as an Islamic State. Secular voices have been either physically eliminated or removed from the mainstream by judicial means.
Therefore, it is in the best interest of Pakistan’s neighbors and the international community to aid the minority communities in Pakistan and hold it accountable for its blatant disregard for human rights (no surprise here considering the Kulbhushan Jadhav case) and to support the voices of those Pakistanis who refuse to give up the idea of a pluralist society and harbour hope for a better future.
– B Aishwarya Lalitha
- Cleansing Pakistan of Minorities – by Farahnaz Ispahani
- 13-year-old Hindu girl forcibly converted and married to abductor in Pakistan’s Sindh
- ‘Rape, Forced Conversion, Torture’: US Agency Slams Pak, China on Condition of Minorities
- Kulbhushan Jadhav case: A timeline
- Abduction of Hindus, Sikhs have become a business in Pak: PML MP | Chandigarh News