PAKISTAN: Former Prime Minister Imran Khan recently admitted that young Hindu girls are converted to Islam in Pakistan through coercion. While addressing a minority convention on Thursday, the cricketer-turned-politician affirmed claims that young girls are being forcefully converted to Islam in Sindh, as reported by Dawn.
“There is an ayat (verse) in the Holy Quran [that] there is no coercion in Islam. This is Allah’s commandment. Whoever forcefully converts a non-Muslim is disobeying Allah,” he was quoted saying.
This is the first time that a public figure like a politician has addressed and consequently admitted reports and rumours of forceful conversions in Pakistan.
Though reports of coerced conversions, especially that of minority Hindu girls in Pakistan, have done the rounds, the government and other law enforcement agencies have kept mum about it.
In October last year, a parliamentary committee refused to ratify an anti-conversion bill to be taken up at that Parliament after the Ministry of Religious Affairs blocked the proposed law despite protests and agitations by legislators from minority communities.
On November 26 of last year, the UK’s All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Pakistani Minorities, an unofficial, cross-party group comprised of MPs and Members of the House of Lords, published a report revealing that around 1,000 girls between the ages of 12 and 25 from minorities are forcibly converted to Islam in the country each year and subsequently married to their abductors.
They had described the issue as a “human-rights catastrophe”.
As per the 2017 census, Hindus comprise a mere 2% of the overall Pakistani population, and an overwhelming proportion of that 2%, nearly 90%, reside in the Sindhi province, an area bordering Pakistan and the Hindu majority region of its rival-neighbour India.
For its questionable attitude towards minorities in the country, Pakistan has been listed under “countries of particular concern” for religious freedom violations.
Meanwhile, the Sindh province passed a law back in 2016 declaring forced conversions an offence punishable by law, but it could not pass the approval of the region’s governor.