A certificate of conversion issued by a leading Islamic seminary in Karachi reveals that a Hindu woman and her six children, including teenage daughters, converted to Islam on the same day they were reported missing by the woman’s husband, a media report said.
Aaj News reported that the husband, Ramji Meghwar, discovered the conversion nine days after his wife Radha, 36, and their children — daughters Mira, 16, Pira, 15, and Piya, 14; and sons Amar, 10, Jay Ram, 7, and Gopal, 4 — went missing on May 7.
Ramji lodged a police report stating that his family had disappeared and that the phones of his wife and eldest daughter were also turned off. He told police that Radha was employed as domestic help at a house in Clifton, a rich neighbourhood in Karachi.
According to the First Information Report (FIR), Ramji said some unknown person or persons had taken away his wife and children after enticing them, with the intent of rape. The FIR has been registered under Section 496-A of the Pakistan Penal Code. The section is titled “Enticing or taking away or detaining with criminal intent a woman”.
According to the report, the Hindu Meghwar community became aware of the conversion when they received a copy of the conversion certificate from the New Muslim Foundation department of the Jamia Binoria Aalamia seminary. The certificate stated that Radha and her six children had converted to Islam “of their free will” on May 7.
The certificate listed the Hindu and Muslim names of the ‘converts’ and provided the birth dates of the children. However, there’s no information regarding their whereabouts.
The New Muslim Foundation, responsible for issuing the certificate, offers support to new Muslim families and individuals. The media outlet’s attempts to contact the foundation were unsuccessful.
FORCED FAITH CONVERSIONS
Leaders and activists from Pakistan’s Hindu and Christian communities continue to report abductions and forced conversions of young women in the Muslim-majority nation.
Every year, dozens of girls – mostly teenagers – from the Hindu community mainly in the southern province of Sindh, and minority Christians in Punjab fall victim to this practice, facilitated by religious leaders and groups, according to activists.
A recent report by a Lahore-based advocacy group, Center for Social Justice, stated that at least 124 incidents of forced faith conversions were reported in 2022.
The victims of these conversions comprised 81 Hindus, 42 Christians, and one Sikh. Shockingly, 23 percent of girls were below 14 years of age, and 36 percent of them were between the age of 14 and 18 years. Only 12 percent of the victims were adults, while the age of 28 percent of the victims was not reported.
Sixty-five percent of these cases were reported in Sindh in 2022, followed by 33 percent in Punjab, and 0.8 percent each in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.
Rights experts say Pakistan’s court system enables offences against religious minority girls and young women “by accepting, without critical examination, fraudulent evidence”.
“Family members say that victims’ complaints are rarely taken seriously by the police, either refusing to register these reports or arguing that no crime has been committed by labelling such abductions as ‘love marriages’,” they said.
In 2019, Imran Khan’s government ordered an investigation into forced conversions after two Hindu sisters were allegedly kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam – a case that triggered a controversy with India.
A Pakistani court later ruled that the two sisters had converted voluntarily.
Activists say a lack of legislation aimed at safeguarding minority rights has made the situation difficult for Hindu and Christian girls.
In October last year, a parliamentary committee rejected an anti-forced conversion bill after the Ministry of Religious Affairs opposed the proposed law despite protests by legislators belonging to minority communities.
In 2016, Sindh province passed a law declaring forced conversion a punishable offence carrying a life sentence, but the region’s governor refused to ratify the legislation.
Last year, the United States placed Pakistan on a list of “countries of particular concern” for religious freedom violations.