Earlier this week, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan released a report on religious discrimination in south Punjab.

The report, titled "Faith-Based Discrimination in Southern Punjab: Lived Experiences", documents the lives of Christians and Hindus in one of the province's poorest regions. Although the authors clarify that they were unable to independently verify the facts of each case of discrimination that the report contains, the Hindus and Christians interviewed had little incentive to lie about how Pakistani Muslims were interacting with them.

The report highlighted how Christian students were often forced into being taught Islamiyat, even as laws do not force non-Muslim students to enroll in Islamiyat as a subject. In fact, the report contains the account of a Christian boy who was allegedly beaten by his teacher for failing to recite Arabic properly. Apparently, school administrations do not independently purchase textbooks for Ethics, which is the subject taught to students from non-Muslim backgrounds. Even bookstores in these localities rarely maintain textbooks for Ethics, robbing students of the only alternative to Islamiyat that the government offers.

Christian community members interviewed also shared how they were often compelled to convert to Islam by their colleagues. The report writes of one woman's experience in college: "She was told she would go to paradise if she embraced Islam. She would reply that she believed she was pious and righteous as she was a true Christian, and that 'our priests also promised paradise in the afterlife if we were truthful and fair Christians'. They would then argue that she 'should still convert to Islam as it is a wonderful faith'."

Besides pressure to convert to Islam, the report also documents an alarming trend of forced conversions of Hindu teenagers, who are also made to marry even at ages as young as 12. In one Hindu locality in Liaquatpur, HRCP's team was told that just in 2019, there had been six cases of forced conversions of Hindu girls. According to the Hindu community, police refuse to take when Hindu girls are forcibly converted to Islam, as Pakistani law does not allow for a conversion to be reneged. As many of these girls are just children, even cases of underage marriage are not registered against Muslim abductors and clerics who force these young children into marriages with older Muslim men.

The report can be read in its entirety here.