12/18/2019, 12.28
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Pakistani activists: Enough forced conversions, government must act

by Shafique Khokhar

Human rights defenders demand justice for 14-year-old Huma, who was taken from her home while her parents were at work. Between 2013 and 2019 at least 160 girls of religious minorities were kidnapped and forced to embrace Islam. Criminals "exploit religion to cover up crimes".



Lahore (AsiaNews) - No more kidnappings and forced conversions of minors; the Islamabad government must act. This is the message launched by a group of Pakistani activists who met yesterday in Lahore.

The initiative is promoted by the Center for Social Justice (CSJ), which calls for urgent action to resolve the case of Huma, the 14-year-old Christian kidnapped in late November in Karachi and converted against her will, and that of many other girls of discriminated minorities in Pakistan.

The activists continue to raise their voices and denounce the episodes of kidnapping and violence against minors, particularly Hindu and Christian minorities. According to Peter Jacob, executive director of the CSJ, between 2013 and 2019 at least 160 girls were taken by force, taken away from home, forced to convert to Islam and married to older men. The conversions are facilitated by a conniving imam, like Mian Mithu [suspected of hundreds of kidnappings and fomenter of violence against the Hindu community in Ghotki last September, ed].

To counter the phenomenon of kidnappings, at the end of November the presidents of the Senate and National Assembly set up a parliamentary commission for protection from forced conversions. Saroop Ijaz, lawyer of the High Court of Lahore, reiterates the intention "to support and facilitate the work of the committee".

The CSJ, reports Jacob, "has recorded 16 cases of women who have requested the support of the Sindh High Court. The analysis of these cases reveals a wide spectrum of legal loopholes, procedural irregularities and socio-cultural factors that leave criminals unpunished. All this must be taken into consideration in the work of the parliamentary commission ".

Najam U Din, former leader of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, protests: "While the government of Pakistan is making progress in promoting the positive image of the country by opening the corridor of Kartarpur [which allows the entry of Sikh faithful from India, ed ] and by promoting religious tourism, criminal elements that have long used religion to cover up their crimes are involved in forced conversions. This must be taken into consideration by the police and the judiciary. Since the victims do not have the right protection of the laws to report, the perpetrators escape [the punishment of the] crime 

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