Islamabad: A Parliamentary committee formed by President Asif Ali Zardari to look into the grievances of Pakistani Hindus Tuesday suggested that instances of the forcible conversion of Hindu girls should be treated as cases of abduction till the persons involved are cleared by authorities.
During a meeting with Zardari in Karachi tonight, the four-member committee headed by federal minister Maula Bux Chandio submitted a preliminary report on the grievances of the Hindu community.
The panel proposed that a case of abduction should be registered in connection with allegations of forcible conversion in future.
Such matters should be treated as abductions "until the girl makes a confessional statement before a court of competent jurisdiction and the court decides otherwise", the committee suggested.
Describing the committee`s visits to areas in Sindh with sizeable Hindu populations and meetings with members of the, Chandio said some Hindus had complained about the "abduction of their girls and their forcible conversion to Islam, which had caused resentment and a sense of insecurity among them".
Zardari formed the committee after the alleged abduction and forced conversion of a girl named Manisha Kumari caused widespread concern among Hindus in Jacobabad area of Sindh province last month.
Manisha later said she had eloped with a Muslim youth and married him.
Reports from different parts of Sindh and Balochistan provinces said that dozens of Sindh families had moved to India in recent years due to forced conversions, extortion demands and kidnapping for ransom.
The Parliamentary committee was formed on August 10 to visit districts of Sindh and meet members of the Hindu community and report on their grievances, Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar said. PTI
Referring to its findings, the committee informed the President that immigration authorities at Lahore stopped 222 Pakistani Hindus from travelling to India on August 10 though they had valid visit visas.
However, after an enquiry by the Federal Investigation Agency showed that they all possessed valid visas, the Hindus were allowed to visit India for a pilgrimage, the parliamentarians said.
The committee said that since Hindus were regularly visiting India for religious purposes, they had protested against the authorities for the "unusual act of stopping them" at the border.
The committee`s report said Manisha Kumari`s conversion to Islam led to protests by Hindus and the subsequent registration of cases against 28 Hindus for violating 144 CrPC in Jacobabad added to their grievances.
The committee informed the President that these two incidents were "mixed up and led to misleading reports about Hindus".
Zardari reiterated the government`s commitment to "provide every protection to the minorities and to safeguarding their constitutional rights".
He said no one would be allowed to impose their agenda on the minorities as it goes against the teachings of Islam and the fundamental principles of the Constitution.
"The minorities will not be allowed to be discriminated against and they would be provided full protection of law," he said.
The minorities have every right to practice their faith freely and it is the government’s responsibility to create an enabling environment for them to contribute their share in nation-building, he added.
The President referred to measures taken for the minorities and said the government is committed to protect the rights of minorities as equal citizens of the state.
In case of any untoward incident impacting minority communities, lawmakers should visit the area and seek to redress their grievances, he said.
Without referring to the harsh blasphemy law, Zardari said the government is "conscious of the concern of the minority communities about the misuse of certain laws against them".
He hoped religious leaders, parliamentarians and members of civil society will discuss the issue and recommend measures to prevent misuse of laws against minorities.