Forced conversion is among the many issues religious minorities in Pakistan face. The alleged abduction and conversion of a minor Hindu girl in Thar has enraged the Hindu community of the area. Men from the influential Syed community allegedly forced the girl to convert after abducting her on June 6. The girl was reportedly married off to one of the members of the Syed community. Although she has stated she consented to the conversion and marriage, the family’s allegations cannot be ignored because such cases of forced conversions have been witnessed in the past.
The rate of forced conversions is higher in Sindh, and any effort to criminalise the practice is met with strong opposition from the religious quarters, that reign supreme in the country. Not too long ago, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) was claiming credit for introducing the forced conversion bill, officially titled ‘Criminal Law (protection of minorities)’ in the Sindh Assembly. But the bill seems to have been brushed under the carpet after religious parties termed it a ‘conspiracy of enemies of Islam to destabilise the country’. Reportedly, PPP Co-Chairman Asif Zardai had personally assured Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) chief that the bill would not be passed after the latter threatened to launch a protest movement against the proposed legislation. It is ironic how parties that have no representation in the provincial assembly are dictating the government. Sources say the Sindh government is now going to amend the bill to address the concerns of the religious groups. As always, the PPP surrendered to the non-state elements.
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari who says his party holds secular values should understand that tweets don’t count as action. The ‘ideological’ brigade has always tried to stop progressive legislation in the country, but apolitical party that claims a moral high ground on progressive values ought to ignore the pressure and do the right thing. To protect the pluralist history and rich cultural identity of Sindh, it is important to address the plight of the persecuted Hindu community and stop the forced conversions. The forced conversion bill needs to be signed into law without further delay. *