Sun, 11 Apr 2021

Washington [US], February 23 (ANI): Underlining that Pakistan government narrative and policies have consistently been anti-Hindu, the World Sindhi Congress, an NGO, urged the United Kingdom to pressure Islamabad to hold all parties and community members accountable for forced conversions and forced marriages.

In a written submission to British lawmakers Jim Shannon, Marie Rimmer and David Alton on February 18, the WSC - an UK, USA and Canada-based human rights advocacy organization - said Pakistan is known as one of the world's most religiously intolerant countries. Freedom of religion is loosely legislated, and religious minorities regularly suffer violence and discrimination.

The NGO said that the Sindh province has become a difficult place for Hindus under Pakistan's rule.

"Hindus systematically face public and private sector discrimination and human rights violations such as kidnappings, forced conversions, and extortion. Further, attacks on their places of worship have increased in recent years. Although the local daily newspapers are full of such reported incidents, the police do nothing to support the victims or bring perpetrators to justice," the NGO said.

Although all minority groups in Pakistan suffer persecution, the WSC said, the research suggests that Sindhi Hindus are the largest minority group to suffer forced conversions. According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), 20 or more Hindu girls are abducted and converted every month in Pakistan.

"The numbers may be higher, but official figures are difficult to obtain because the police often refuse to register cases of forced conversions and work in conjunction with the religious institutions to cover up or legitimize the conversions," the WSC said.

The NGO stated that Hindu girls' forced conversion is a multi-faceted human rights violation, encompassing religious persecution, trafficking, violence against women, and violence against children.

"Like most girls who are forcibly converted and married come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, issues of vulnerability due to poverty and social alienation also play an important role. Sindhi Hindus are often sequestered away from social, cultural, educational, and economic opportunities in Muslim-dominated communities. Furthermore, conservative Muslim groups exert substantial influence in local power structures, perpetuating and institutionalizing discrimination and misogyny, further alienating Sindhi girls," the NGO said.

The NGO urged the United Kingdom to ask Pakistan to make laws that immediately and concretely end forced conversions.

"The UK can also leverage its influence in Pakistan along with the influence of its allies to pressure the Government of Pakistan to hold all parties, religious, institutional, security, and community members accountable for the forced conversions and forced marriages that have occurred. It is imperative the Government ensure the victims and their families are given complete safety and protection under the law," the submission read.

The UK can strongly recommend the Pakistani Government move forward with the passage of the Sindh Minorities Bill of 2016 in its entirety, the NGO noted.

"The Pakistani Senate recently formed the Parliamentary Committee to Protect Minorities from Forced Conversions. It is the best time for the UK and AAPG to engage in this effort and work with the legislature to ensure that the process is just and the rights of women, children, and minorities are protected according to international human rights standards," it read.

The Office of Foreign Commonwealth cannot blatantly ignore Sindhi Hindus' situation; the Office should increase work with NGOs and UK allies to promote the importance of this issue, create substantial documentation, and push for actual policy and implementation changes, the WSC noted.

Pakistan has been repeatedly slammed by the international community for not taking stringent measures to protect its minority communities, despite the country's Prime Minister Imran Khan vowing to protect them on numerous occasions. (ANI)

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