After MPs from the Hindu community in Sindh complained in the National Assembly that women from their community were being “kidnapped for forced marriages and conversions”, the government said it would order a parliamentary or judicial probe into the alleged persecution of religious minorities.
Several minority members, during a debate regarding the recent killings of three Hindu doctors in Shikarpur, sought immediate government action against “growing harassment” against their community.
The government will make sure that those responsible for the killings of the three Hindu doctors are punished, said Interior Minister Rehman Malik, and suggested establishing a special parliamentary committee to probe this and other similar incidents. However, he insisted that the three were not killed because of their faith but because of an affair between a Hindu boy and a girl from the Bhayo tribe.
Eleven men from the tribe have been arrested in connection with the murders, the minister told the house, but admitted that the main culprits were still at large.
Earlier, Religious Affairs Minister Syed Khurshid Shah had said that the government was also willing to conduct an inquiry through a high-powered judicial commission.
The promise by both ministers came after several parliamentarians, most of them from religious minorities, set aside their party affiliations to unanimously condemn the incident that they said “had shocked the entire country”.
The lawmakers, however, were divided on whether a special parliamentary panel or a judicial commission should investigate the matter that some of them termed a “big shame” for the liberal and secular credentials of Pakistan.
It was Dr Khatu Mal Jeewan of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) who revealed that the Hindu girls were being picked up for forced marriages and conversions. He avoided getting into a blame game but did drop a slight hint, saying that “religious” elements would often terrify girls when they were brought to court for trials.
It was unfortunate that authorities in Shikarpur district failed to prevent an incident that had been brought into their notice much before it actually happened, Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid’s (PML-Q) Kishan Chan Parwani said.
PPP lawmaker Justice (retd) Fakhar un Nisa Khokhar, suggested that the government should appoint an ombudsman to look into the alleged persecution of minorities.
NA speaker’s security withdrawn
Several members from across the house criticised the overnight incident of briefly withdrawing the security from the residence of National Assembly Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza.
Media reports said that the security was removed from the street of the speaker’s house in Karachi due to inconvenience that people had been facing as a result of the blockade.
However, security was restored after a while when the NA speaker brought the matter to the notice of the prime minister.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 16th, 2011.
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