KARACHI, Dec 29: Speakers at a meeting on Saturday called that a survey be conducted to find out the number of forcibly converted minority community members, particularly young Hindu girls in Sindh, so that a comprehensive report be prepared and discussed with the government.

They were speaking at the meeting organised by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan to discuss issues relating to the vulnerable communities because of their belief and discussion on election prospects vis-a-vis religious minority communities. They also highlighted the issue of killing of Hazara Shias in Balochistan.

HRCP secretary-general I. A. Rehman said a detailed survey be conducted to collect data from panchayats, representative bodies, etc of the Hindu community regarding forced conversions. He also suggested that data be collected from religious seminaries which performed or facilitated conversions in general so that a total figure emerged as to how many people were converting.

He also suggested that cases filed in the courts during 2011-2012 also be reviewed to get that side of the picture also. He also stressed that the National Commission on the Minorities that had remained dormant for long be made operational so that the issues being faced by the minorities be highlighted at the government level and could eventually be resolved.

Amarnath Motumal said the attitude of the police and the lower judiciary was not fair and they sided with the people behind forced conversions. He suggested that courts should not take the statement of converted girls instantly, but such girls be kept in Darul Amans — where parents could access them — for a certain time before their statements were taken.

Advocate Rochiram said that on the hearing of such cases a large number of Ulema with their supporters came to courts which influenced the working of the lower courts. He suggested that a new comprehensive law dealing specifically with forced conversions be formulated to give protection to the minority communities against forced conversions.

HRCP Balochistan chief Tahir Khan said that over 800 Hazara community members belonging to the Shia sect had been killed in Balochistan since 1998. He said the killings had been carried out in an organised manner and from one to 63 people had been killed in single incidents. He said very few attackers had been arrested and even fewer convicted. He said certain banned organisations, being funded from abroad, were involved in the killings. He said in certain incidents even people behind bars had “escaped” while the walls, doors and locks of their jail cells remained intact.

He said when contacted, the Balochistan inspector general informed him that the police had found a large number of cellphones and SIMs and given to the security agencies to trace them, but even after months the agencies were unable to do so. He regretted that even banned organisations were openly operating under different names but the government was taking no action in that regard.

On the issue of elections and minority communities, Zahid Farooq said that when candidates come to seek votes, the voters should ask them about their party policy regarding minorities rights. He also suggested that the political parties be persuaded to pick candidates from the minority communities.

Mahmood Tahir, speaking regarding the Ahmedi community’s stand on elections, said the community considered its members as Muslims, but since their electoral lists were separate and they were dubbed non-Muslims by the government, under protest and as a matter of principle they did not participate in elections.

HRCP chairperson Zohra Yusuf, Naeem Shakir, Dr Sabir Michael, Asad I. Butt, Inder Ahuja, Prof Aijaz Qureshi and others also spoke.

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