Washington DC, July 18, 2019: A Sindhi activist has accused Pakistan of implementing discriminatory policies against the minority Hindu community in the country, especially in the Sindh province.
"Pakistan is known as one of the world's most religiously intolerant countries. Freedom of religion is loosely legislated, and religious minorities regularly suffer violence and discrimination," World Sindhi Congress (WSC) activist Duo Kalhoro said at a conference held here.
"Hindus systematically face official and social discriminations, including the kidnappings, forced conversions, extortions, and discrimination in public as well as private sectors. They are not entirely free to exercise their religious freedom, and in recent years, attacks on their places of worship have increased," she added.
The theme of the conference was -- 'Pakistan as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA): What now?' and had been organised by Unrepresented Nations and People's Organisation (UNPO).
Pakistan is the world's fifth most populated country and is home to about 21 crore people. Although it is predominantly a Muslim country, four per cent (approximately 1 crore) of its citizens are non-Muslims, with Hindus and Christians being the largest among those with a population of close to 40 and 35 lakh each.
Hindu traders and middle-class men face violence and are subjected to kidnapping for ransom, and Hindu businesses owners regularly face extortion - with open negligence of the police.
"Local daily newspapers are full of such reported incidents in Sindh and elsewhere," she said in her speech.
Duo Kalhoro hails from Sindh province of Pakistan where a majority of Hindu population in the country is settled.
"The biggest threat to Sindhi Hindus is the forced conversion of their girls to Islam. Current statistics estimate that every month, 20 Hindu girls are abducted and converted to Islam," she added.
"Most of the victims are under the age of 18. Some as young as 11 years old. Once the girls have been married off and converted, they are prohibited from contacting their families, leaving them even more vulnerable to exploitation," said Kalhoro.
To date, not a single perpetrator has been convicted because state institutions prefer to take the side of religion rather than the side of justice.
A report by Anti-Slavery International mentions of the prevailing practice of bonded labour, with the majority of the victims belonging to the Scheduled Castes Hindu population.
Bonded work, including bonded labor of children, continues to exist, despite the government's 2001 extension of the 1992 Bonded Labour System Abolition Act, and recommendations made in the previous review.
Local government officials have failed to enforce the Bonded Labour Abolition Act, and police often fail to register complaints against abusive landowners.
The bonded labour system is characterized by patterns of abuse, detention, and exploitation. (Agency)