ISLAMABAD: Only days before the general election of 2018, Prime Minister Imran Khan had promised the nation that if he came to power, he would do all he could to prevent forced conversions/marriages of Hindu girls.
However, another Hindu girl has been reportedly converted and taken into marriage by a Muslim man in Thar (Sindh).
According to sources, a 16-year old Hindu girl Anusha Kumari, belonging to Meghwar caste and a resident of Salam Kot in Tharparkar District, has been forced into marriage after her ‘conversion’ to Islam last week.
The girl, according to reports, had been trapped by a Muslim man of the same locality who enjoys support of the local Muslim clergy.
Complaints and cases of forced conversions of Hindu girls are being reported on a regular basis and most of such cases are reported in Sindh’s Tharparkar district where 80 per cent of the population belongs to the Hindu faith.
Neither the federal government of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) nor the provincial government headed by Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) have taken any steps to stop such incidents and legislate on the matter in the national and Sindh assemblies.
Kapil Dev, a human rights activist and member of the Hindu community from Tharparkar, told Gulf News that Anusha Kumari’s forced marriage has once again conveyed a message to the Hindu community of the area that their children were not safe in Pakistan and they had taken a wrong decision in 1947 to stay in Sindh.
Kumari’s case has not only dented the cause of religious harmony but has also violated the Sindh government’s Child Marriage Restraint Act of 2013 that bars marriage of girls below the age of 18, Kapil said.
Kumari’s birth registration form, school certificate and other documents all reveal she was born in 2002 and took admission in school in 2007.
When asked what if she herself has taken the decision to embrace Islam and marry a Muslim man, Kapil said, “How can you expect from a girl who is merely 16 to take a decision that would affect her entire life? Besides, even if she has taken this decision of her own will, she will have to wait for two more years as marriage of a person below 18 is not permissible in Sindh.”
Kapil said the only solution to such cases of forced conversions lies in legislation. The PPP government in its last tenure had worked on the bill and was to table it in the assembly but the PPP co-chairman and former president Asif Ali Zardari intervened and withdrew it in the last moment.
According to him, the draft bill was withdrawn seemingly under the pressure of the religious forces. “It is ironic that a House of 171 members was taken hostage to a handful of religious zealots who don’t even have a representation in the Assembly, Kapil lamented.
Imran Khan’s ex-wife Reham Khan has also condemned the forced conversion of the Hindu girl. On her twitter page, Khan posted, “Another case of a Hindu female child forcefully converted & married off. Disgusting but there will be no action as politics comes first for all players.”
According to a report by the ‘Movement for Solidarity and Peace’ in Pakistan, an estimated 1,000 Christian and Hindu women are forced to convert and marry Muslim men every year.
Kapil said the prime minister had recently challenged his Indian counterpart over the state of minorities but Anusha’s forced conversion has become a test case for the premier and he should put his foot down firmly and adopt a zero tolerance stance on this issue.