Islamabad: Pakistan, one of the key South Asian nations that is fighting a serious COVID-19 outbreak, is still witnessing forced conversion of minority girls even at this hour of health crisis.
According to media reports, the country witnessed seven such incidents recently.
At least 1,000 non-Muslim girls are forcibly converted to Islam in the country annually, according to a Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) report. Many of these girls belong to the Hindu community in Sindh, where most of Pakistan’s eight million Hindus live, reports The Spectator.
Locals claim that such abductions are so common they affect ‘every other family’, with a vast majority of those targeted underage. Some victims are as young as 12 years old, reports the British magazine.
Despite such incidents, the country still lacks a law dedicated to curtailing the relentless spree of forced conversions.
Two such bills, tabled in 2016 and then 2019, were shot down. Among other clauses, the bills demanded that the minimum age for changing one’s religion be set to 18 years, jail terms be sanctioned for anyone guilty of coercion, and a 21-day period in a safe house be mandated for the person seeking conversion to ensure that the decision has been taken out of free will, reports The Spectator.
Turning down the first bill against forced conversion, former Sindh governor Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui, had said as quoted by the magazine: ‘When Hazrat Ali [the fourth caliph in Sunni sect, and the first imam for the Shia] can convert to Islam at a young age [9 years], why can’t Hindu girls?’
Even though Pakistan managed to finally pass legislation against child marriage last year, courts continue to allow forced conversion and marriage of underage girls in blatant defiance of the law. This is especially true in Sindh where the Child Marriages Restraint Act has been in place since 2013.
“Presiding over this grim situation is Imran Khan, who has spent much of his energy extricating ‘Islamophobia’ around the world.
“He would be well advised to note that Pakistan’s treatment of dissenting Muslim voices and the ‘wrong kind of Muslims’ is arguably more ‘Islamophobic’ than many of the countries he accuses of the same,” The Spectator reports.
Indeed his backers, the all-powerful Pakistan Army, have had a leading role in the country’s Islamisation. Khan’s political opponents have similarly been complicit, with even the self-proclaimed liberal Pakistan People’s Party doing little to distance itself from individuals orchestrating forced conversions in Sindh, the magazine said.