New legislation to protect minority communities may be in the making, as National Assembly legislators have been tasked with meeting with representatives of the groups to gain their insight.
A subcommittee of the National Assembly’s standing committee for human rights held the meeting in Circuit House, Sukkur on Monday afternoon. It was attended by representatives of the Christian and Hindu communities from different cities of upper Sindh.
The meeting came in the wake of the recent case of alleged forced conversions in Sindh that was eventually heard by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. While the women in question – Rinkle Kumari, Asha Kumari and Dr Lata – said they wanted to live with their husbands; the Hindu community was not satisfied with the outcome of the case.
The standing committee took notice of the situation and constituted the committee comprising the secretary of the Committee for Human Rights Fayyaz Hussain Shah, MNA Dr Araish Kumar and the director-general of Human Rights Taimoor Khan.
Hindu community representatives who met with the committee included the president and general secretary of the Hindu Panchayat Sukkur Mukhi Eshwar Lal and Ashok Kumar Wadhwani, as well as the presidents of the Hindu panchayats in Naushehro Feroze, Khairpur and Ghotki.
The men expressed their concerns over the “forcible kidnapping, conversion and marriages” of Hindu girls and said that they were being treated like third-rate citizens. While they noted that women may leave their homes to marry for love – not for religion – their future remained insecure. A suggestion came forth to create a committee of Muslims and Hindus that should take up such cases. Hindu girls who want to marry Muslim boys should first record a statement with the committee. They also suggested that the ‘haq meher’ of Hindu girls marrying Muslim men should be fixed and be a large amount – ranging from Rs2.5 million to Rs5 million to secure their future.
They said that Hindu children are forced to study Islamiat in school and asked that they have a separate syllabus according to their religion.
The representatives also highlighted cases of harassment and kidnapping of Hindu traders and alleged that more than 200 Hindu families have migrated to New Delhi because of the situation in Pakistan.
MNA Dr Araish Kumar and Fayyaz Hussain Shah told The Express Tribune that similar meetings with minority groups will be held in Mirpurkhas on Tuesday and in Karachi subcommittee will submit its findings and suggestions to the standing committee. According to Kumar, the committee will then table a bill in the National Assembly for the protection of minority rights.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 22nd, 2012.