More forced conversions going on than reported, says MP

Published: June 6, 2016
Lal Chand Malhi of PTI says Hindu girls are abducted and converted every day. PHOTO: REUTERS/FILE

Lal Chand Malhi of PTI says Hindu girls are abducted and converted every day. PHOTO: REUTERS/FILE

ISLAMABAD: There are no authentic statistics are available on forced conversions in Pakistan. However, some media reports suggest that as many as 1,000 girls are forcibly converted to Islam from other religions in Pakistan every year.

Despite earning some sporadic attention in the national media, forced conversions have not received the attention they deserve.

To begin with, a forced conversion is where any person uses any sort of pressure, force, or threat — be it a physical, emotional or psychological one — to coerce a person into adopting another religion.

In Pakistan’s context, a forced conversion usually refers to Hindu or Christian women who are made to convert to Islam.

Forced conversions: Call to remove controversial clause from Hindu Marriage Bill

Usually girls belonging to religious minorities, sometimes those who are still in their teens, are abducted, converted to Islam and married to an alleged abductor or any of his accomplices. In court, the girls, who remain in the custody of their abductors throughout, testify that they wilfully eloped and changed their religion.

In recent years, the practice has taken root in Sindh, a province where most of Pakistan’s Hindus still live and where the society in general is tolerant towards people of other faiths.

But the marks of burgeoning religious extremism in general are now visible in the province. Biased attitude of police and judiciary in dealing with such cases has only exacerbated the problem.

Lal Chand Malhi is a Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) member of the National Assembly on a minority reserved seat who, as a public representative, has been dealing with many such cases from his area.

Malhi hails from Umerkot in Sindh, a district where almost half of the population is Hindu.  He says forced conversions are a routine matter there.

Plight of Hindus: Ruling party MP says forced conversions continue in Sindh

“Hindu girls are abducted and converted…. this is happening every day,” he tells The Express Tribune with alarm.

The lawmaker claims that the actual number of forced conversions of Hindu girls is much higher than reported in the media.

He said the cases which are reported in the media mostly relate to well-off Hindu families. He added that cases from poor families, which constitute 95 per cent of the Hindu community, remain unreported for various reasons.

“So called forums, working on these issues are useless when it comes to such cases from scheduled classes. The victim’s families neither get any legal help nor are their cases reported in media,” he says. “I think 90 per cent of cases go unreported.”

“Here we are talking about those poor families who either work as bounded labour or earn only one-time meal. These people refrain from going to the police due to obvious reasons,” Malhi says, adding that these people usually approach a local landlord or politician instead.

“Again majority of the landlords in the area do not belong to our religion and naturally are not that sympathetic to them” he describes why these cases remain unattended and unreported.

Seeking their rights: Forced conversions still an issue for Hindus in Sindh

To make matters worse, Malhi believes statistics reflected in the media on forced conversions primarily come from various Christian forums since there is no formal mechanism to monitor such cases in the Hindu community which is disorganised. On the other hand if such an incident takes place in some upper class Hindu family, Malhi says, it is highlighted at every level immediately.

But little happens after that.

“A case gets highlighted and pressure builds on police to take action. But when the girl is discovered living in a madrassa, the police does not dare to conduct a raid there,” he laments.

“Police keep on pleading the administration of the seminary to grant access to the girl. The process takes days till her captors are satisfied that the girl has been brainwashed or she is under their full influence and would repeat before the police whatever they tell her,” Malhi recounts.

The alleged abductors then allow police to record her statement, setting the tone for the remaining trial.

“The girl is kept away from her family during the whole episode. When she is brought before the court either she is already brainwashed or she is under pressure. This is the condition under which her statement is taken and the case is decided.”

The victim’s family thereon does not see their daughter again.

Malhi says there is a need for special legislation on conversion and wants to introduce such a bill in parliament once he gets the nod from his party.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 6th, 2016.

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Reader Comments (13)

  • Sid
    Jun 6, 2016 - 9:12AM

    And all those who scream about religious freedom in India will stay muted here or may even justify that this forceful conversion is right. Recommend

  • KP
    Jun 6, 2016 - 10:32AM

    ( Please hide my identity)

    Unfortunately, none of our mainstream political leader ( Sharifs, Zardaris, Imran Khans, Pir Pagaras, Farooq Sattars, Choudhrys, Moulanas QazisKamals etc speak about it and dare to say anything against this barbaric and unislamic act. Minorities representatives are not elected by the minorities but are selected by the political parties. .

    Minorities move out to West or India and it affect the image of country very badly. Those who support the immigrants may have the objectives of defaming Pakistan. I would request our politicians to please take up the issue fore the sake of Pakistan rather than pleasing fanatics.Recommend

  • Atheist
    Jun 6, 2016 - 1:18PM

    If a country has a religion,these are expected.Recommend

  • Atheist
    Jun 6, 2016 - 1:21PM

    @KP: every Hindu are welcome to India their original home.Afterall this was the land of pure dharmics. Modi Govt is doing everything to protect from the on slaught.Recommend

  • Fahim
    Jun 6, 2016 - 1:32PM

    Judges present in the courts have more knowledge of the evidences present. While PTI leader only showed the number not the list of women. If I have a big mouth I would say 1 million Recommend

  • gulshan
    Jun 6, 2016 - 2:04PM

    Shame on Pakistan , where conversion has become a routine matter. But shameless public never tires of accusing India of minority bashing, Single conversion if reported in India puts the parliament on fire. Muslims in general increased in population from 50 million to 200 million in last 60 years with all-round participation in every sphere.Any takers.Recommend

  • ahmad
    Jun 6, 2016 - 9:46PM

    why do the girls testify in the court that they have gone willfully?
    and how do you assert they are ‘brainwashed’? Recommend

  • Zak
    Jun 7, 2016 - 1:25AM

    This not possible in Pak. Another attempt to malign Pak’s good name. This is RAW’s propaganda. Recommend

  • kfaisal
    Jun 7, 2016 - 2:39AM

    @Ahmad : Because they are told if the don’t do that they will be killed.Recommend

  • I. Khan
    Jun 7, 2016 - 3:00AM

    @ahmad: Because these abducted girls are fifteen sixteen years old and they are terrified, also most of the girls are pregnant when they go in front of a Judge and they are also threatened to be killed or their face to be disfigured with acid if they speak against their abductor. Recommend

  • observer
    Jun 7, 2016 - 3:23AM

    “More forced conversions going on than reported, says MP”

    What is new here? This has been going on since 1947. There were 25+% Hindus/minorities in Pakistan soon after the partition. Now they number less than 4%. Numbers and facts don’t lie. On a broader picture, such decimation of minority relgionists has been going on for 1400 years in Muslim countries.Recommend

  • reader
    Jun 7, 2016 - 9:23AM

    Perhaps this is one of main root cause for the differences for many in the non-Islamic world against the Islamic world. What do Islamic countries expect from non-Islamic countries when this goes on, unabated, as a writer mentions, no major political, religious, social, community leader speaks against this, why? because he or she cannot, he will be decimated. That is the degree of how this nation is brainwashed, most unfortunate but very true. This is why we cannot make friends with a neighboring country. This is why there is so much schism between Islamic and non-Islamic nations. This is why people like Donald Trump, Shivsena and many others become popular, because they provide an an alternate of sorts, good or bad. Where there is action, there will always be reaction.Recommend

  • anon
    Jun 14, 2016 - 1:09AM

    Why live in such a country? Do anything but get out of such country even if it means risk to life.Recommend

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