Forced conversions: A big problem for Pakistani minorities

By Matthias Samuel

Forced conversions in Pakistan

The rising incidences of forced conversions to Islam in Pakistan are raising fears for minorities in the Islamic republic. It is very depressing to see that the country founded by the great leader Quaid-e-Azam is now known as a country where abductions, child marriages and forced conversions are becoming a pretty normal act.

According to a recent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan report, over 1,000 non-Muslim girls are forcibly converted to Islam every year. According to reports, the estimates of the incidence of forced marriage and conversion vary from 100 to 700 victim Christian girls and 300 Hindu girls per year. The point which is to be noted is that a number of these cases are never reported or do not progress through the law-enforcement and legal systems.

According to a report released by MSP (Movement for Solidarity and Peace) in Pakistan, Hindu and Christian girls between the ages of 12 and 25 are usually abducted, converted to Islam, and married to the abductor or third party.

Cases of forced conversions

Following are some cases of forced conversions in Pakistan:

The alleged abduction of two young Hindu sisters, it was a case of underage marriage of two teenage sisters Reena (15) and Raveena (13) in Sindh’s Ghotki district. However, the prime minister instructed the chief ministers of Sindh and Punjab to immediately arrest the culprits involved in the incident and recover the girls.  Islamabad High Court on Monday seeking protection as the police arrested 14 suspects along with a Nikkah Khwan (an official registering the marriage contract).

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Saima Iqbal case, a Pakistani Christian mother of three was abducted, tortured and forced to convert to Islam by a Muslim man who then forced her to marry him. In a Facebook video she tearfully described how she was snatched from her home.  Mr. Iqbal, the husband of saima said that, “I have challenged the forced conversion and the forced marriage of my wife in a magistrate’s court,” however, they are still awaiting the court’s judgment.

Payal Kumari, a teenage Hindu girl who was abducted by her teacher from district Thatta. Police looked the other way as Payal went missing for several days before appearing to record her statement at a madrassa.

Constitution of Pakistan regarding forced conversion

There are thousands of girls in Pakistan who are either abducted and end up converting to Islam and marrying a Muslim man. Human rights groups estimate that 20 or more girls are abducted every month in Pakistan. All of this goes against Article 20 of the Pakistan Constitution that guarantees freedom of religion.

According to Article 20 of the Constitution of Pakistan, “every citizen shall have the right to profess, practice and propagate his religion and every religious denomination and every sect thereof shall have the right to establish, maintain and manage its religious institutions”.

The state should either strip off the democratic façade or establish pure and favoring social equality, which is not possible without universal acceptance of freedom of belief and conscience.

 

Matthias Samuel is a student of history in Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU) Islamabad, and occasionally writes blogs and articles.

Disclaimer:

The views and opinions expressed in this article/Opinion/Comment are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Dispatch News Desk (DND). Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of Dispatch News Desk.