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Fawad Chaudhry, Sushma Swaraj spar over alleged abduction, forced conversion of Ghotki sisters

Updated March 24, 2019

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Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry and India's Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj exchanged words on Twitter on Sunday on the alleged abduction and forced conversion of the Ghotki sisters. — Dawn
Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry and India's Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj exchanged words on Twitter on Sunday on the alleged abduction and forced conversion of the Ghotki sisters. — Dawn

Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry and India's Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj exchanged words on Twitter on Sunday after the latter shared that she had asked the Indian high commissioner in Pakistan to give her a report on the alleged abduction and forced conversion of two teenage sisters from Ghotki.

Chaudhry, responding to Swaraj, said that this was Pakistan's internal matter and he hoped the Indian government would "act with same diligence when it comes to rights of Indian minorities".

"It is Pakistan's internal issue and rest assure[d], it's not Modi’s India where minorities are subjugated," he added. "It's Imran Khan’s Naya Pak where the white colour of our flag [representing minorities] is equally dear to us."

Swaraj, addressing the minister, said her inquiry for a report on the girls — who belong to a Hindu family — made Chaudhry "jittery". "I only asked for a report from Indian High Commissioner in Islamabad about the kidnapping and forced conversion of two minor Hindu girls to Islam. This was enough to make you jittery. This only shows your guilty conscience."

In his reply, Chaudhry said he was "happy" that there were people in the Indian administration "who care for minority rights in other countries".

"I sincerely hope that your conscience will allow you to stand up for minorities at home as well. Gujarat and Jammu must weigh heavily on your soul," the information minister said pointedly.

Later, during a press conference, the minister reiterated that the Imran Khan-led government was ensuring the rights and protection of the country's minorities, questioning if the Indian government could claim the same.

He added that incidents happen all over the world, but what matters is how governments deal with them, giving the example of the recent New Zealand terror attack and its Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who has been praised for her government's humane handling of the massacre.

"We saw the way New Zealand's government stood with their minority. Can India say that it stands with its minorities?" he asked.

Earlier in the day, the minister announced that Prime Minister Imran Khan had ordered the Sindh and Punjab governments to work together to investigate the reports of the alleged abduction and forced conversion from Hinduism to Islam of two teenage girls, and to retrieve them from Rahim Yar Khan — where they are suspected to have been taken from Ghotki.

The father and brother of the girls — one aged 14 and the other 16 — have alleged that the two sisters were abducted and forced into changing their religion from Hinduism to Islam. However, in a video making rounds on social media, of the girls say that they accepted Islam of their own free will.

The minor girls, after changing their religion, were married to Muslim men. "FIR [registered] with local police for 'abducting to compel to marriage'. Age in FIR is 14 and 16," said activist and lawyer Jibran Nasir. "Under Sindh Child Marriages Restraint Act, every citizen under 18 falls under definition of child and can't be married."