Forced conversions of Hindu and Christian girls have become a routine affair even as the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan continues to loudly proclaim that Pakistan is free for all religions
Forced conversions of Hindu and Christian girls have become a routine affair even as the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan continues to loudly proclaim that Pakistan is free for all religions.
However, the recent case of the 13-year-old Arzoo Raja, the Christian girl who was kidnapped, converted to Islam and married off to a Muslim man, sheds a glaring light on the issue of forced conversions and child marriages.
Arzoo's case has attracted media glare, social media debates and has been among the top and biggest stories of the year 2020, which has highlighted on the gaps in the system, that continues to give leverage to such practices and keeps lives of young girls, at high risk.
Arzoo's case may be the last in the list of young Christian and Hindu girls who have gone through the ordeal. But there are many cases that are continuing in parallel to Arzoo's case and being heart in the Pakistani courts.
Neha Pervaiz, a young girl, who was abducted from Karachi's Ittehad town on April 28, 2019, was underage when she was forcibly converted and married off to a Muslim man Imran.
The Sindh High Court (SHC) issued arrest warrants of cleric Qazi Mufti Ahmed Jaan Raheemi for performing the marriage, the husband Muhammad Imran and his relatives Muhammad Rehan Baloch, Sundus and Azra.
The court observed that the statement of the complainant was correct that the girl was underage at the time of the marriage, and was unwilling to go ahead with it, adding that the marriage was solemnized without Neha's consent, and under pressure, coercion and influence.
The mentioned cases are only two of the many that are pending before the Pakistani court. This indeed is a reminder that the issue of forced conversations of underage girls is evidential proof of why religious minorities continue to feel unsafe in the country.
The issue of forced conversions is often seen taking different forms with ongoing practices that continue unchecked. One reason for this is that the abductors are from the majority Muslim population, which is why, they get easier access to power and influence.
A recent study by Ghulam Hussain, an anthropologist, concludes that "the forced conversions narrative has been developed, promoted and propagated without any justifiable basis and is working towards the Islamphobic political goal of maligning the state and society of Paksitan and more particularly the region and the religious characters in it".