UN Commission on Women (CSW) lambastes Imran Khan's government for institutionalized discrimination against religious minorities in Pakistan
The CSW report says that forced marriages and conversions of Hindu and Christian girls and women, mostly SC/STs from lower economic backgrounds, are rampant throughout Pakistan particularly in the Punjab and Sindh provinces.
The United Nations' Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in its report on religious freedom in Pakistan has observed that Pakistan has institutionalized attack on its minorities by passing of discriminatory legislation by the Imran Khan led Tehreek-e-Insaf government. This has empowered Islamic extremists to mistreat religious minorities and carry out attacks on them.
The 47-page report titled "Pakistan-Religious freedom under attack" was released by UN CSW this month. The commission has also expressed concerns over the increasing "weaponisation and politicisation" of the blasphemy laws which are used by the fundamentalists to target the minorities. It also castigated the Pak government legislation which is being used by the Islamic radicals to persecute religious minorities and gain political ground.
Most importantly, the commission in its report has said that the Hindu and Christian communities in Pakistan are most vulnerable, especially women and girls. The commission also said that human rights activists in Pakistan who speak for minorities face constant threats and intimidation from several quarters, especially Islamic fundamentalists.
Persecution of Minority women
The UN CSW report categorically states that hundreds of women from the minority communities are abducted, converted and forcibly married. "Each year hundreds are abducted and forced to convert and marry Muslim men. Victims have little or no hope of being returned to their families due to the serious threats and intimidation from abductors against the girls and their families. This is compounded by the lack of police will to take action, weaknesses in the judicial process and discrimination from both police and judiciary towards religious minority victims," the report says.
The CSW stated that cases of forced marriages and conversions of Christian and Hindu girls and women are rampant throughout Pakistan, particularly in the Punjab and Sindh provinces. Many of the girls under the age of 18 years. Hindu girls and women who are systematically targeted because they come from lower economic backgrounds in rural areas, and are generally under-educated.
Minorities as second class citizens
The commission has cited several prominent examples to demonstrate that minorities in the country are portrayed and treated as second class citizens. In May 2019, Ramesh Kumar Malhi, a Hindu veterinary surgeon from Mirpurkhas in Sindh, was accused of blasphemy for wrapping medicines in pages containing verses from the Quran. Protesters burned down his clinic and other shops belonging to the Hindu community.
The commission contended that blasphemy laws in Pakistan, which criminalize anyone who insults Islam, are often misused to lodge false cases against the religious minorities and are a "source of controversy and suffering". "The prolonged misuse of the blasphemy laws over the last three decades, combined with the rise of extremism, has had a damaging normative impact on social harmony. The sensitive nature of blasphemy cases serves to heighten religious fervor and has created an environment of mob violence in which people take matters into their own hands, often with fatal consequences," the report says.
The CSW report also says that children from religious minorities are routinely subjected to severe physical and psychological ill-treatment, including being segregated, bullied, teased, insulted and beaten on multiple occasions, by both teachers and classmates.
One more Hindu girl abducted
Close on the publication of the UNCSW report, news from Pakistan suggest that one more Hindu girl has been kidnapped. The girl named Mahek and daughter of Amar Lal Keswani from Karachi has been missing since 13th of December and is most probably kidnapped, says the news. The abductor is alleged to be one Ahishar Memon who is from the same city.
Since, no calls have been received for ransom, it is believed that Mahek has been kidnapped for forcible marriage after conversion. Many young Hindu girls are routinely kidnapped in Pakistan.
In October Namrita Chandani, a first-year medical student from Ghotki town in northern Sindh was abducted from Pakistan's Sindh province and forcibly converted and married. Vidya Maheshwary another Hindu girl has been missing since May 2019. In September another Hindu girl was who was a student of BBA, had left for college on August 29 and did not return home. Media reports said that the girl was forcibly converted to Islam. She was abducted by one of her classmates Babar Aman, along with Mirza Dilawar Baig who is a member of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). She was forcibly married off to Babar Aman, say local reports.
A US-based Sindhi Foundation has said that every year, around 1,000 young Sindhi Hindu girls between the age of 12 and 28 are abducted, forcibly married and converted to Islam.