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Hindu girls are forced to marry Muslims: Zardari's sister

By Rezaul H Laskar
March 15, 2012 21:43 IST
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Acknowledging that Hindus face a lot of challenges in Sindh, sister of President Asif Ali Zardari said in Pakistan's parliament on Thursday that Hindu girls are being forcibly kept in madrassas in the province and are forced to marry Muslims.

The remarks by Azra Fazal Pechuho, a lawmaker of the ruling Pakistan People's Party, came against the backdrop of the Supreme Court's recent directive to authorities to produce three Hindu women who were allegedly kidnapped in Sindh.

Two of the women -- Rinkle Kumari and Lata Kumari – have told magistrates they voluntarily converted.

Speaking in the national assembly or lower house of parliament on the issue of Rinkle Kumari, Pechuho said Hindus faced a lot of challenges in Sindh.

She stressed the need for laws to protect the rights of minority communities and to end forced conversions.

Nafeesa Shah, another lawmaker from Sindh, endorsed Pechuho's stand and said parliament should introduce legislation on forced conversions.

Media reports had said that non-Muslims were being forced to accept Islam, she said. "Protection of the minorities should be ensured as enshrined in the Constitution," Shah said.

Minority parliamentarians, including Lal Chand and Mahesh Kumar, too expressed concerns at the kidnapping and forced conversion of Hindu women.

They said it was the right of every person to follow any religion but nobody can be forced to convert, they said.

In his statement, Minister of State for Interfaith Harmony Akram Masih Gill, a Christian, said the government has taken several steps to empower minorities.

The steps included a five per cent quota in government jobs and declaration of August 11 as Minorities Day, he said.

PML-N lawmaker Araish Kumar raised the issue of minorities being forced to attend classes on Islamic studies. "Our students are being forced to study Islamiat in government schools...If they refuse to study Islamic studies, they are struck off by the school administration," he contended.

The remarks by the lawmakers came at a time when a report said almost three-quarters of women from Pakistan's minority communities have faced sexual harassment while 43 per cent complained of religious discrimination at workplaces, educational institutions and neighbourhoods.

The report, prepared by the National Commission for Justice and Peace, states that about 74 per cent of the women faced sexual harassment.

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Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad
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