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Forced conversions place Pakistani leadership, legislation under scrutiny

File photo: Pakistan PM Imran Khan. Photograph:( AFP )

WION New Delhi, Delhi, India Mar 25, 2019, 11.49 AM (IST)

By Saurabh Bose and Ayushi Agarwal

The alleged forced conversion and marriage of minor girls from the Hindu and minority communities in Pakistan have kicked up a furore. 

The most recent example is of two Hindu sisters who were allegedly abducted in Daharki, Sindh on Holi eve, and forcibly married in a dargah after having being converted to Islam. With the shocking incident surfacing in international media and exerting heat on the authorities in Pakistan, the alleged perpetrators fled to Punjab.

When the two minors are produced in court on Monday, both the inadequate handling of the case by the government as well as the existing legislation in the country will come under further scrutiny.

The Sindh assembly bars the conversion of minors in the absence of their parents or elders till the age of 18. In 2015, the Sindh assembly passed a law to curb child marriages; that law enables the arrest of a priest who marries off such a minor and all others who were part of the gathering.

Pakistan MP and Patron-in-Chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council, Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, spoke to WION and disclosed that he is bringing in a five-point resolution seeking to end the kidnapping of Hindu girls and forced conversions. The resolution will be tabled in the next session of the National Assembly. 

"The bill against forced conversions which was unanimously passed by Sindh Assembly in 2016 and then reverted due to the pressure of extremist elements, must be resurrected and passed in the Assembly on priority basis," the draft of the resolution says.

The resolution also mentions that the Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights — and the Sindh Assembly — has already unanimously approved the draft bill to amend the Child Marriage Restraint Act, raising the minimum age of marriage to 18 years. 

According to Dr Ramesh Kumar, the bill must be passed in National Assembly on an urgent basis and implemented throughout the country in letter and spirit.

"These cases are not new. Since Rinkle Kumari and Asha Kumari cases we have been witnessing that such crime in the past as well,'' Pakistani journalist Veengas told WION.

In fact, Veengas added, the Sindh Police's version helped the culprits escape to Rahim Yar Khan in Punjab.