PM orders Sindh, Punjab govts to investigate reports of teenage girls' alleged abduction, forced conversion
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday ordered the Sindh and Punjab governments to work together to recover two teenage girls who were allegedly kidnapped, forced to convert from Hinduism to Islam before being married to Muslim men, and have reportedly been taken to Rahim Yar Khan from Ghotki.
The father and brother of the girls in videos — circulating on social media over the last two days — said that the two sisters were abducted and forced into changing their religion from Hinduism to Islam. However, a separate video of the girls has also been making rounds, in which they said that they accepted Islam of their own free will.
Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry, via tweets on Sunday, said that Prime Minister Khan has asked the Sindh and Punjab governments to investigate reports of the two minor girls being shifted to Rahim Yar Khan from Ghotki.
The prime minister further asked that the two girls be recovered if they have indeed been moved to the city.
According to the tweet, the prime minister also directed the Sindh government to take concrete steps against such incidents [of abduction and forced conversions].
In his tweet, Chaudhry further said that Pakistan's minorities represent the white part of Pakistan's flag and that "we love all our colours and the protection of our flag is our responsibility."
Uproar on social media
On Saturday, after the case created uproar on social media, Chaudhry said the government had taken notice of reports of the alleged forced conversion and underage marriages of the two girls in Ghotki.
Chaudhry on Twitter said that the Human Rights Ministry had been "asked for an inquiry".
Lawyer and activist Jibran Nasir was among those who raised the issue on Twitter, sharing a video which he said was of the two sisters, one aged 14 and the other 16.
In the video, a cleric can be seen next to the girls and two men who they were married to. The cleric says the girls were inspired by Islam and alleges that their family is spreading "false propaganda" and is threatening their lives.
Nasir said the sisters were converted at the Dargah Barchundi Sharif. "As per Dargah, girls wanted to convert to Islam since long influenced by its teachings, but first act after conversion was underage marriage," he said. The girls were reportedly taken to Rahim Yar Khan following their marriages.
Nasir also shared a copy of a first information report dated March 20, which was registered by the girls' family against their alleged forced conversion to Islam.
"FIR [registered] with local police for 'abducting to compel to marriage'. Age in FIR is 14 and 16," said Nasir. "Under Sindh Child Marriages Restraint Act, every citizen under 18 falls under definition of child and cant be married."
"Police has tried to dismiss the matter by citing a video of the two sisters in which they claim they will fully converted (sic) to Islam," Nasir said.
Most Hindu families in Pakistan live in Sindh and according to media reports, some 25 forced marriages take place every month in the Umerkot district.
Last year, prior to being elected, Imran Khan had pledged to safeguard the rights of minorities if "he came into power" and had announced that his government would take effective measures to prevent forced marriages of Hindu girls with Muslims.