The pattern behind conversions in Sindh
By Amjad Ali Siyal,
Lately news emerged of the forced conversion of two minor Hindu girls- Raveena, 13, and Reena, 15, in Ghotki area of Sindh. The Prime Minister Imran Khan ordered Sindh and Punjab chief ministers for the recovery of the two teenage girls. Unfortunately, miseries of minorities continued ever since the partition either in one way or the other. They remain vulnerable even to this day.
It is well-established fact that a group in Sukkur and Ghotki region is working on this outrageous act of forced conversions since a long time under the patronage of a power former MNA. Despite that, no decisive action has been taken. Promise to protect minorities in Pakistan remains merely on paper. Practically, fact remains otherwise. State’s inaction has emboldened the few powerful thugs that they will escape punishment as they were not punished in the past. This reality amounts to the state’s capitulation before the handful few who has have their own law and rules to follow.
The phenomenon of forced conversions in Sindh is the other manifestation of extremism. Horror of forced conversion is thrust upon the minority communities by the extremists who shamelessly consider it as their divine duty. The vulnerable minorities do not approach the law enforcement agencies knowing that even the all-powerful state has surrendered before these offenders then there is hardly any possibility that they would be dispensed justice. Long and never-ending trial process certainly takes decades for the case adjudication.
The recent forced conversion is blatant violation of Article 9 “security of person”, Article 20 “freedom to profess religion” and the Sindh Child Marriage Restraint Act, 2013. When the supreme law of the land fails to protect then what the minority should expect? They are forced to migrate. Time and again this paper reported of the minorities leaving Pakistan who never returned. It is important to realize the fact no one willingly leaves one’s native land. I can exactly remember a poignant incident during the massive flood of 2010. I visited Shahdadkot to witness flooded area and a poor family was living in wretched hut just beside the flooded area. They were not willing to shift to the camps because in whatever condition they were, they were happy to stay in their native area. Thus, minorities left Pakistan not by their free will but they were forced to.
In addition, this very trend is contrary to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s idealism of Riasat-e-Madina. None was forcibly converted in Madina during the 7th & 8th centuries rather they all lived peacefully under the Charter of Madina. This practice stands in stark contrast to Islam. The word “Islam” is derived from “salam” which means peace. The forced conversion is not the peace-promotion but violence. Those involved should at least learn from the teachings of the Prophet (PBUH) who practiced and preached peace and tolerance.
Moreover, Sufism is essential characteristic of Sindh. It is a secular and all-embracing region. It is worth-mentioning here that the closest circle of Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, Qalandar Shahbaz, etc. consisted of Hindus. Dr. Hotchand Moolchand Gurbuxani was the first person who comprehensively compiled the Shah Jo Risalo. Other Hindu writers including females have enriched the Sindhi literature. Hence, this biasness is a mindset prevalent in the society.
Those involved in promoting violence in anyway must meet the strong muscles of state power. Besides, all those enlightened minds should condemn this practice. Remember: “‘the world suffers a lot. Not because the violence of bad people. But because of the silence of the good people.”
The state must ensure that the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan, 1973 are “human rights” but not the “Muslim majority rights”. They are to be protected for all the citizens of Pakistan without any discrimination. The State should not hesitate from taking action against the offenders involved in forced conversions. It is imperative to legislate on the forced conversions. Council of Islamic Ideology should also play is due role in the light of Quran and Sunnah vis-à-vis the protection of minorities. Ulema should preach tolerance and embracing the minorities. Besides, the existing laws must be amended and forced conversion should also be included in the definition of extremism, terrorism and harassment. This should be included in the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 in order to expedite forced conversion cases on priority basis.
It is important to ensure justice to peaceful minority communities in Pakistan and give them confidence as Martin Luther King Jr. said “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. Minorities are peaceful and they have not been involved in any heinous crime. Let us honor them, value them and treat them equally as the equal citizens of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Lessons can also be drawn from New Zealand and most importantly from its Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and the way she compassionately and humanely dealt with the crisis.
The writer is masters in Political Science from Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad and a freelancer