Help The Kashmir Monitor sustain so that we continue to be editorially independent. Remember, your contributions, however small they may be, matter to us.

Forced marriage in Pakistan

Two minor Hindu girls (sisters) were allegedly kidnapped and forcibly married after being converted to Islam in Pakistan’s Sindh province, triggering protests by the minority community. The two girls, 13-year-old Raveena and 15-year-old Reena, were allegedly kidnapped by a group of “influential” men from their home in Ghotki district on the eve of Holi. Soon after the kidnapping, a video went viral in which a cleric was purportedly shown soleminising the Nikah (marriage) of the two girls. Later another video surfaced in which the two sisters claimed they embraced Islam themselves and no one forced them to covert or get married. The Hindu community in Pakistan has carried out massive demonstrations calling for strict action to be taken against those responsible, while reminding Prime Minister Imran Khan of his promises to the minorities of the country. Hindu community apart, the incident did cause outrage in the majority community in Pakistan as well and there were demands of legal action from various political and social groups against the kidnappers and their helpers. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan again set an example by ordering inquiry into the incident. Imran Khan ordered the Sindh and Punjab government to work in tandem to retrieve the girls and arrest the people involved in the incident. It is quite encouraging that the police in, both, Sindh and Punjab have launched a manhunt to track down the alleged perpetrators. Six persons, one of them main suspect as also the so called Molvi who solemnized the marriage, are reported to have been arrested while the efforts arrest other involved persons were on. It goes without saying that minorities, in most of the countries in the world, are the victims of majoritarian-hood. They are harassed and humiliated by the members of the majority community every now and then. Pakistan is no exception. However, what makes the difference is the response of the state to such shameful incidents. Since the rise of Imran Khan to the highest seat of governance, the minorities in Pakistan feel a hope in him.

On completion of his 100 days in office, Imran Khan, in an address to his nation, assured equal rights for all citizens of Pakistan irrespective of region and religion. He even took a dig on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi “We will show the Modi government how to treat minorities. Even in India, people are saying that minorities are not being treated as equal citizens”. Three days later, on Pakistan’s founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s birthday, Khan tweeted, “Quaid envisaged Pakistan as a democratic, just and compassionate nation. Most importantly he wanted our minorities to be equal citizens. It should be remembered that his early political career was as an ambassador for Hindu-Muslim unity”. That makes the Pak Prime Minister’s intentions known. But intentions need to be put into action. Though Imran Khan has ordered inquiry into the kidnapping and forced marriage of the two Hindu girls but he needs to bring discipline in his government at the lowest level as well so that such incidents do not happen at all. The Mullahs and Molvis of Pakistan also need to understand the basic values of Islam. Quran strictly prohibits of forced conversions and marriages. “There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion. The right course has become clear from the wrong” (Sura-Baqra, verse 256).

Islam is a religion of plain and clear directions. It is the choice of the person to accept or reject it. Nobody shoulf be forced to accept Islam. Forcing non-Muslim women into marriage is not only violation of Islamic teachings but also tarnish the image of the Allah’s religion. One hopes that Pakistan government, in particular, and Pakistani society, in general, adheres to the true spirit of Islam and do not become the cause for other people to curse this religion based on social justice, compassion and truthfulness.