Protesters demanded to end forced conversions

LAHORE: A protest camp against forced conversions was held at Charing Cross outside the Punjab Assembly on Saturday that was attended by representatives of minority communities.

The participants belonging to various faiths and religions gathered at the camp and shouted slogans against extremism.

The participants belonging to various faiths and religions gathered at the camp and shouted slogans against extremism.

Jawad Ahmad, chairman of the Barabri Party Pakistan, condemned the rise in kidnappings of minor girls, especially in Sindh. “We should be completely against the concept of minority and majority in any case,” he said, specifying that all citizens were equal and must be given basic rights

“We have always spoken out against forced conversion,” he said. “Laws are already there, but they are not being implemented. Barabri party feels that perpetrators of such crimes must be dealt with aggressively and immediately. The state must take note of these issues because this is an incorrect use of religion as a tool.”

Chaman Lal, who has been working on the issue of forced conversions, said an Anti-Forced Conversion Bill ought to be passed immediately. He said that when girls were kidnapped their original school certificates and official age was concealed by kidnapers and they were presented as 18 years old and ‘legal’ for marriage and conversion. But this was all a lie, he added.

“Main perpetrators are Mian Mithu, the pir of Barchundi Sharif in Ghotki district; and Pir Ayub Jab Sarhandi of Sarhandi shrine in Umerkot district. The Hindu community wants their immediate arrest.”

Joseph Francis from the Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement said that forced conversions were not just limited to the Hindu community in Sindh, but six cases had surfaced in Punjab during 2019 – in Lahore, Bahawalpur and Sahiwal.

“They kidnap minor girls and take them away just to be raped, but even boys are sometimes kidnapped and brainwashed and sent to Kashmir to fight,” he claimed. “If this is what happens, sometime down the line minority communities will also tend to get radicalised to protect their religions.”

He demanded that the girls that have been recovered be instantly returned to their parents and not shifted to Darul Amans, and that every nikah of a Hindu girl and a Muslim man, must be conducted in front of the media, social activists and a magistrate to ensure transparency.

Amarnath Randhawa, Pastor Amjad Naimat, Kashif Nawab, Katherine Sapna, Reverend Faraz Malik, Neelum Kumari, Anila Muneer, Bushra Khalique and Nasir William also spoke at the camp.