In Pakistan’s stormy social currents, where the tide of sectarianism has chased out many Ahmadis and Shiites, life for minorities such as Hindus is becoming difficult.
According to a recent report issued by the Movement for Solidarity and Peace in Pakistan, (MSP), 700 Christian and 300 Hindu women are being forced to convert and marry Muslim men.
Girls aged between 12 and 25 are kidnapped, forced to embrace Islam and then coerced into marriage.
Once a woman has ‘voluntarily’ converted and given her consent to marriage, the case stands settled. She can then face abuse, rape and be forced into prostitution.
The MSP account comes at a time when Sindh, thus far the tolerant land of the Sufis, is witnessing a surge in odious incidents.
For the Christian community, the problem lies primarily in Punjab. These issues thrive inspite of the fact that there are nearly 20 Hindu parliamentarians, including the National Assembly of Pakistan, the four provincial assemblies and in the Senate.
Pakistan must promulgate an ordinance that forbids conversion by force and stipulates arduous penalties towards attempts to manipulate vulnerable segments such as women, minors, minorities and scheduled castes.
Such a law is critical in an environment where the country’s marginalised communities view the crime of forcible conversion, and the recent spate of desecration of Hindu shrines, as an aspect of the extremist and, in many cases, land mafia agenda.
Also, the plight of Pakistan’s minorities makes a forceful case for the state’s failure to uphold secular values enshrined in the religion it honours – Islam.