Sindh Assembly adopts resolution to end forced conversions

Despite the pressures, we will not leave this land and have decided to fight these elements, says MQM MPA

Hafeez Tunio July 17, 2019

KARACHI: Amid rising incidence of forced conversions and alleged kidnappings of Hindu girls, the Sindh Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution on Tuesday demanding this practice be stopped and action be taken against the elements involved in the practice. The resolution was moved by Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) MPA Nand Kumar Goklani.  The ruling Pakistan Peoples Party as well as Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and the Jamaat-e-Islami supported the resolution.

In his speech, Goklani presented facts and figures and said that around 40 Hindu girls, mostly minors, from Badin, Thatta, Mirpurkhas, Karachi, Tando Mohammad Khan, Khairpur Mirs, Hyderabad and other areas, have been forced to convert religion in the last few months. "This assembly has passed a law against child marriages. The minor girls of our community go missing and later appear in a seminary where they tie the knot with a Muslim boy," he said, adding that all this is being done under pressure.

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The GDA MPA, who had earlier moved a bill against forced conversions, briefed the House about legislation and the then governor's dissident note and said, "This assembly passed a law against forced conversions, but after the governor's objection, I have submitted another draft, which is still pending approval".  He added that the Hindu community would have no objection if their girls leave home and make the decision of their free will, but they would not tolerate it if anyone forcibly kidnaps and compels them to covert.

Goklani indirectly criticised his colleagues sitting on the treasury bench for not taking steps to stop the practice in the province. "This is our motherland. Since the creation of Pakistan, we the minorities have always remained loyal to Pakistan just like our Muslim brothers.  Where should we go if our girls are converted?" he asked. He added that most Hindus have left Pakistan because of this, "but we want to live and die here. Please give us protection and don't force us to leave this country". He reminded the House of the words of the founder of the nation, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who said: "You are free to go your temples, your mosques or to any other place or worship in this state of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed- that has nothing to do with the business of the state".

Goklani lauded Benazir Bhutto's efforts for the rights of minorities living in Pakistan and said, "We would not have to face such a situation if Benazir were alive".

Mangla Sharma of MQM, while supporting the resolution, questioned why only Hindu girls are being kidnapped. "We respect all religions, but the question arises why Hindu boys are not so impressed to convert religion," she said. According to Sharma, the number of non-Muslims is decreasing in Pakistan because of multiple problems faced by them in the country.  She further said, "Despite different pressures on us, we will not leave this land and have decided to fight these elements who work against us".

PTI MPA Khurrum Sher Zaman suggested to remove the name of Hindu girls from the resolution and said, "We have great respect for the non-Muslims living in Pakistan, but we should avoid using such words like 'Hindu girls' as this defames Pakistan aboard. Kidnapping incidents also happen with Muslims from other sects too".

Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Mukesh Kumar Chawla assured the House that the government was serious in introducing a law against forced conversion. Abdul Rashid of Jamaat-e-Islami supported the resolution but rejected the notion that only girls are being converted. "I think the number of non-Muslim boys converting have surpassed the girls," he said and suggested that this issue be resolved amicably by making a law to address it.

Minorities Affairs Minister Hari Ram Kishori Lal affirmed that the issue of kidnapping of Hindu girls exists and said, "We are making efforts to control it". However, he did not share what strategy the government would adopt to stop this practice.

Opposition MPA to submit revised forced conversion law in Sindh Assembly

After the discussion, the assembly passed the resolution which reads, "This House resolves that the provincial government take notice of recent surge of the kidnapping of girls from various districts of Sindh and take steps to arrest the culprits and give them exemplary punishment and stop forced conversions".

Nurses' protest

During the session, Nusrat Seher Abbasi, on her point of order, said that the nurses of various government hospitals had been protesting for the last 13 days in front of the Karachi Press Club. She added that Local Government Minister Saeed Ghani, the commissioner and health secretary had assured that they would resolve the issue in one day, but all in vain. "The health department is completely crippled due to the strike," she said.  Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani said that the government has assured them and the issue will soon be resolved. 

Published in The Express Tribune, July 17th, 2019.


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