Islamabad: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has reaffirmed the abysmal state of the minorities in the country. According to a report by the commission, the minorities in the country live under constant fear of persecution as their perpetrators enjoy court sanctions, support from the influential and affluent section of the society and patronage from political leaders.
In May 2019, the fact-finding team visited Ghotki district with the purpose of assessing complaints regarding the forced conversions of Hindu girls, with reference to the case of Reena and Raveena, two underage Hindu girls who disappeared from their homes in Daharki city and were later found to be married to Muslim men after being converted to Islam.
The Hindus protested against the incident but the local police reportedly refused to file a complaint. An FIR was filed in the case only after strong protest from the Hindus and after the video of the two girls went viral on social media in which they claimed that they had converted to Islam and married two Muslim men from their locality. The family of the two girls claimed that they were underage but the commission formed by the Islamabad High Court to ascertain the facts found that the girls were of marriageable age. The Islamabad High Court ordered the Ghotki sisters to return back to their Muslim husbands after the girls allegedly confessed in front of the court that they had willingly converted to Islam.
Against the backdrop of these developments, the members of the commission met the Hindu residents of the Ghotki district and recorded the apprehensions harboured by them. The leaders or the mukhis of the Hindu Panchayats of various districts admitted to being victims of the high-handedness of certain powerful groups and individuals. A majority of them complained that they faced some kind of discrimination from the ‘powerful’ or the ‘influentials’.
The commission found that most Hindu residents who once lived here migrated to India after facing frequent cases of banditry and forcible seizures of their property. Many others who met the team lamented about lack of support for the community when a case of forced conversion took place. One commission member who met the community leaders said that Hindu girls were held in captivity for several days and were forced to issue a statement regarding the consent they have given for their conversion. It was also alleged by others that such girls were subjected to rapes and torture while in the custody of kidnappers. Even the courts, including the Supreme Court, they claimed, were unsympathetic to the predicament of the Hindu girls.
Some of the Hindu residents also bemoaned the dichotomy of Pakistan’s constitution of granting equality of citizens but not allowing non-Muslim residents from holding the highest positions in the state and government. They further added that properties belonging to Hindus were forcibly seized by powerful individuals and that there was always an ‘element of coercion’ involved in the conversion of Hindu girls to Islam.
Furthermore, the commission found that authorities in Pakistan were more concerned about Pakistan being maligned globally after cases of forced conversions came to the fore rather than providing justice to the victims of said atrocities. The Commission also found that the fear was so widespread among the Hindu community that many cases of forced conversions went unreported.