Monday, April 8, 2019

Pakistani Hindus lose daughters to forced Muslim marriages

Naila Inayat, Special for USA TODAY Feb. 15, 2017
Anila Dhawan, 17, was kidnapped last spring from her home in Hyderabad, forced to convert to Islam and marry her abductor.
The police refused to intervene. Her kidnapper told them she ran away from home, and converted to Islam and married him voluntarily. But after her family pressured a court to intervene, she told judges the truth and they freed her.
“Her life was threatened,” her attorney, Ramesh Gupta, said. “She wanted to go back to her parents and the statement (she made to the court) helped to sway the decision in her favor and she was freed to join her family.”
Anila is one of many Pakistani Hindu girls kidnapped because of religious discrimination in a country that is 98% Muslim.

Every year, Muslim men abduct and forcibly convert about 1,000 girls — mostly Hindus, but also Christians, according to the South Asia Partnership-Pakistan, a local human rights group. About 5,000 Pakistani Hindus leave every year for neighboring India — where 80% are Hindus — to escape religious persecution, according to the Pakistan Hindu Council.
Legislation banning such conversions for those under age 18 was passed unanimously late last year by the legislature in the southern province of Sindh, where the Kohlis live, but it never went into effect.
Hard-line Islamic groups objected to the measure, which called for up to five years in jail for those who force a conversion. They threatened protests, arguing the law was anti-Islamic and part of a conspiracy to make Pakistan a secular country.
"We will not remain silent on this controversial law," said Hafiz Saeed, a leader of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, a self-described charity that the United States has labeled a terrorist group.
The measure was vetoed in January by Sindh Gov. Saeed-uz-Zaman Siddiqui, who died a few days later. The legislative defeat was a major setback for human rights in Pakistan, activists say.
“The problem of conversions is real,” said Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, a mewmber of the Pakistan Hindu Council and parliament. “We are not against the conversion of religion as a result of research or preaching. But why are only underage Hindu girls in Sindh changing religion?”
For example, Ameri Kashi Kohli’s 14-year-old daughter was abducted from her home in southern Pakistan one night last summer as she slept.
The Hindu farm worker was aghast when she discovered what actually happened to her daughter soon after. “She had been converted to Islam and became the second wife of our landlord,” Kohli said. Her landlord falsely claimed the teen was compensation for a $1,000 debt the family owed him.
Making it even worse, the police refused to help. "They just said forget your daughter, she has converted," Kohle explained. They said "my daughter Jeevti is now known as Fatima."
Some say the defeat of the bill shows definitively that religious hardliners have too much power in the country.
“Government after government, military and civilian, have caved in to pressure from the extremists,” said Farahnaz Ispahani, a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C., who specializes in Pakistan’s minorities. “It is imperative for the government to stand by the people it represents. The bill to stop enforced conversion must be passed unaltered.”
She said Muslim leaders oppose extending new protections to Pakistanis who belong to religious minorities, especially women.
“Muslims in Pakistan will never treat Hindus as their own,” said Meera Bai, a Pakistani Hindu immigrant in New Delhi. “For them, we will always remain the ‘other.’"
"We escaped religious and cultural persecution when we came to India," she added. "We are happy here. At least here we know that no one will steal our cattle or our young daughters.”
As for Kohli, she says her daughter is lost. Soon after the abduction, the landlord produced an affidavit from the teen stating she purposefully ran away, converted and married, something her parents say she was forced to write. She's not allowed to meet with her family or friends, according to her husband's rules.
Kohli said her daughter's plight underscores the uncertain future that Hindus face in Pakistan.
"There (are) many Fatimas in this country," Kohli said. "But does this country have place for a Jeevti?”

Pakistani Minorities: Kidnappings Covered Up by Religious Conversion, Marriage

A judge in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, placed two Hindu girls, allegedly under the age of 18, in government custody Tuesday and ordered a "fair and transparent inquiry" into their circumstances that is to be presented to the court in a week.
The girls, Reena and Raveena, were allegedly forced to convert to Islam and marry Muslim men. Their family filed a police report saying they had been kidnapped from Ghotki in Sindh province, where a majority of Pakistan's Hindus live.
But the girls filed a court petition saying they were over 18 and had willingly converted to Islam and married the men they wanted. They also sought protection from their family, claiming the family had harassed and threatened them.
The case has once again brought to the forefront the longstanding complaint in Pakistan's Hindu community that minor girls were being kidnapped, and that conversion and marriage were being used as legal cover to protect the abductors. The community also claimed the girls were threatened with harm to themselves or their family members to give false statements in court.
While the Hindu community has the largest number of such complaints, other minorities have faced the same issue. Last month, a Christian woman in the Punjab province reported that her 13-year-old daughter was kidnapped from her home by several men. Her abductors claimed she had converted to Islam and was married to one of them.
Mohammad Sarfaraz Khan Aibak, the police officer conducting the inquiry, told VOA the girl had given an affidavit in court that she was 18 and knew what she was doing. He also said the girl "refused to take a medical examination" to determine her age and could not be forced to take one against her will.
Abiak claimed the family did not have a birth certificate. But the family's lawyer, Lazar Allahrakha, shared with VOA the copy of a church certificate called a "dedication certificate," often used by the country's Christian community in lieu of a birth certificate. He also shared a copy of a school certificate. According to both documents, the girl was born in 2005.
Pakistan law
Human rights lawyer Asad Jamal said even if a girl was a minor, under Pakistani law, marriage to an underage person could not be invalidated if she claimed she had done it willingly.
"The girl's statement is very important in such cases," he said.
Minority communities complain that minor girls should not be allowed to make such life-altering decisions.
"They are innocent. They don't know anything at this age," said Kheeal Das Kohistani, a Hindu member of parliament from Sindh.
In addition, Kohistani said, there was no way to determine whether the girls were giving their statements under pressure unless they were taken away from the men who had allegedly abducted them.
"They should be kept in a shelter home for 15 to 20 days, and their parents should be allowed to meet them," he said.
VOA's own investigation in Sindh province two years ago showed that not all cases involved kidnapping or use of force. Some minor girls eloped with Muslim men against their family's wishes and changed their religion since marriage between a Muslim and a Hindu is not allowed in Islam. The parents often claimed kidnapping, since local police were unlikely to take action if it was determined the girls left willingly.
However, rights activists say taking a girl under 16 away from her legal guardians is illegal under any circumstances.
"The law says that if a girl is under 16, if she is taken away from her legal guardians even through enticement, whether you've made her believe she is in love or lured her away any which way, the law considers it kidnapping. It does not necessarily have to be use of force," said Jibran Nasir, a human rights lawyer who follows these cases closely.
Pakistan's law also says a girl under 16 cannot consent to sex. "So, if you had consensual sex with someone under 16, that is still considered rape," Nasir said.
Pir Mohammad Ayub Jan Sarhandi is one of two Muslim clerics in Sindh province the Hindu community blames for most of the conversions and marriages. He told VOA that he always ensured a young girl was making her decision freely without any pressure, but said he did not agree with the legal age for marriage.
"They say a girl is not mature till she is 18. We condemn this law. We do not accept it. We will never accept it," he said.
Several Pakistani clerics believe a girl is ready for marriage with her first menstrual cycle.
Reena and Raveena
The Sindh government took notice of Reena and Raveena's case when a video went viral of their father helplessly beating himself outside a police station and asking people to shoot him.
Seven people have been taken into custody for their alleged involvement in the marriages, including members of the husbands' families and the man who performed the marriage ceremony.
Prime Minister Imran Khan also ordered an inquiry, which Kohistani said was a good first step but not enough.
"He should come in the parliament and help make a law against it. That is what will give them instant relief," he said.

RT calls to evolve proper and transparent mechanism for religious conversions in #Pakistan

Rwadari Tehreek RT held a Press Conference on April 6, 2019 at Press Club Karachi to condemn the frequent incidents of kidnapping, forced conversions and forced marriages of women and girls belonging to Hindu, Christian and other minority communities and demanded to enact law and proper and transparent mechanism for religious conversions and to stop forced conversions and to apprehend the elements involved in the forced conversions.

The Press Conference was addressed by Chairman Rwadari Tehreek Mr. Samson Salamat, Vice Chairman Deedar Meerani, President Sindh Punhal Sario, Presdient Karachi Nabeela Aslam and social activist Safina Javed, Mukesh Meghwar,  Bishop Ghulfam Javed and  Pandit Vijay Goswami,

 Addressing the Press conference Mr. Samson Salamat, Chairman Rwadari Tehreek strongly condemned the forced conversions and the underage marriages of Hindu and Christian Girls and expressed solidarity with their families who are wandering here and there for justice and demanded that those involved in organized business of forced conversions such as Mian Mithu, the Peer of Barchundi Sharif at District Ghotki and Pir Ayub Jan Sarhandi of Sarhandi Shrine at district Umerkot- Sindh for their immediate arrest. 

Mr. Samson Salamat said that “this horrifying trend of forced conversions has left the citizens belonging to minority communities into misery, pain and a situation of terror and insecurity” which is breech of International Human Rights Standards and Norms and the Constitution of Pakistan, which guarantees religious freedom as a right to every human being without any discrimination”. 

Mr. Samson Salamat demanded that “effective and comprehensive legislation should be passed immediately to curb forced conversion and underage marriages. Mr. Samson Salamat suggested to limit the minimum age for conversion to 18 years and to evolve a proper and transparent system and mechanism for conversion to other religion which will help to stop forced conversions”.  

Deedar Ahmed Mirani, Vice Chairman of Rwadari Tehreek and renowned human rights activist said that “conversions to Islam in suspicious conditions is a matter of grave concern and is rightfully sparking fear and anger among the minority communities who are already victim of religious discrimination and persecution through many other ways. Forcibly converting anyone is a criminal offence and therefore those involved in the forced conversion should no more be free and should be put behind the bars”.

Mr. Punhal Sario, President Rwadari Tehreek Sindh urged to speed up the process of legislation to stop forced conversions along with an effective implementation mechanism. Mr. Punhal Sario also requested civil society to launch awareness campaigns to discourage forced conversions and under age marriages.

How the British failed India and Pakistan

The history of two neighbors born at war — and the British strategy behind it.

There’s an ancient Macedonian phrase that’s become a common principle in politics and power: “divide et impera,” or “divide and rule.” It’s the strategy in which rulers promote political division within the people of conquered nations so they’ll be busy fighting each other — instead of imperial rule.
And for nearly 200 years, that’s exactly how the British ruled India. The large nation was home to dominant religious groups including Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs. To discourage unified Indian campaigns for independence, the British reinforced divisions along religious lines.
By 1947, when the British were finally ready to grant India independence, the seeds of discontent had been sowed. The handover of power, and the resulting partition of India and Pakistan, would be bloodier than anyone could have imagined.
For a brief history of how the region was split in two, check out the video above. If you’d like to learn more about Kashmir in particular, and how it’s become one of the most disputed regions in the world.

Pakistan minority groups hold rally at White House

Scores of representatives from the Mohajir, Baloch, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pashtun, and other religious minorities arrived in front of the White House in the form of a rally from the Dupont Circle. They were carrying posters and banners displaying the atrocities against the ethnic and religious minorities of Pakistan.

Representatives from various ethnic and religious minorities of Pakistan have held a peaceful demonstration in front of the White House here against what they described as “the worst kind of genocide” they are facing in Pakistan and asked the international community to help them exercise the right to self-determination.
The ruling Pakistani establishment is driving ethnic identities towards eradication, they alleged.
“It is now incumbent that International Community must understand our plight, and help us achieve the Right of Self Determination, ” said Rehan Ibadat, central organizer, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) USA.
“As a collective effort we have gathered today to represent all the oppressed ethnic groups residing in the current geographical boundaries of Pakistan. We Mohajir, Baloch, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pashtun, and other religious minorities demands separate land by exercising our right to self determination,” participants of the protest said in a joint statement.
Scores of representatives from the Mohajir, Baloch, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pashtun, and other religious minorities arrived in front of the White House in the form of a rally from the Dupont Circle. They were carrying posters and banners displaying the atrocities against the ethnic and religious minorities of Pakistan.
“We, ethnic minorities are facing worst form of genocide against the mankind. The ongoing enforced disappearances, extra-judicial killings, and denial of basic human rights by this ferocious law enforcement agencies of Pakistan, particularly Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) are the primary factors,” they said.
Nabi Bakhsh Baloch, who represents Baloch National Movement in the US, alleged that Pakistan is a state sponsor of terrorism and epicenter of global jihadist movements and militant groups involved in cross border terror attacks against its neighbours — India and Afghanistan; creating an environment of political instability and zones of conflict that could lead to large scale war and nuclear catastrophe.
Speaking on behalf of the people of Gilgit and Baltistan, Senge H Sering said Pakistan has received billions in dollars from the US for fight against terrorism, but has only caused more harm to the United States.