ISLAMABAD/ Karachi - Taking notice of the social media reports about alleged abduction of two teenage Hindu girls from Ghotki and their shifting to Rahim Yar Khan, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday directed Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar to immediately investigate incident.

The prime minister took this action after the father and brother of the victim girls, in videos circulating on social media over the last two days, alleged that the two sisters were abducted and forced to change their religion. The Hindu community also staged a protest at a main highway linking Daharki, Sindh.

After the PM issued instructions, a team of Sindh’s minorities department met with father and brother of the girls to learn their stance and help investigate the matter.

However, a video of the girls named Reena and R avina has also been making rounds on the social media in which they said that they accepted Islam and married at their own free will.

The girls, aged 13-14 years, also held a presser along with their husbands claiming they had embraced Islam willfully on the hands of Pir of Bharchoondi Sharif, Pir Abdul Haq alias Mian Mithu. The religious leader later married them to his loyalists, according to them.

Information Minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain in a tweet said that if the reports about the alleged abduction were true, the prime minister had directed for early recovery of the girls.

He said the prime minister has also directed the Sindh and Punjab governments to devise a common strategy about the matter and take concrete steps to prevent such incidents in future.

He said white colour in Pakistan’s national flag represents minorities in the country and “we love all of our colours”. He said protection of the national flag “is our national duty”.

PTI leader and Patron-in-Chief of Pakistan Hindu Council Ramesh Kumar Vankwani thanked the prime minister for taking notice of the alleged abduction.

In a video message, he expressed the hope that all issues pertaining to minorities will now be resolved on permanent basis under the leadership of Imran Khan.

Referring to a statement of Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj regarding abduction of the girls, he said neighbouring countries should refrain from interfering into internal affairs of Pakistan.

Ramesh said that the government is going to bring a legislation to permanently end incidents of forced conversions.

Point-scoring

Adviser to CM Sindh on Information Affairs Murtaza Wahab said that the chief minister had taken notice of the matter even before the prime minister tweeted on the issue.

He said a Sindh Police team was in Rahim Yar Khan town of Punjab and conducting raids with the help of Punjab Police for the arrests of suspects.

Taking a jibe at Khan, he said if the prime minister was serious about this issue then he should have first amended the laws to prevent child marriages.

“The prime minister should look into the ground realities of the issues instead of simply tweeting on them,” he said adding that PTI was confined to take notices on twitter only. He said the PM tried to gain ‘cheap publicity’ by tweeting on the issue.

Fawad Chaudhry regretted Sindh adviser’s statement and said he should not have indulged in political point scoring over a serious issue.

He pointed out that law prohibiting child marriages already exists and the government would bring the culprits to book in accordance with the Child Marriage Act.

 

 

Ramesh resolution

Dr Ramesh Kumar has said that a five-point resolution seeking to end the kidnapping of Hindu girls and forced conversions would be tabled in the next session of National Assembly.

According to a resolution draft sent to media, Dr Ramesh was asked to play his role for raising his voice in the parliament, media, civil society and all other forums available, in the wake of the recent alleged kidnappings of Reena and Raveena, and another girl Shania from Mirpur Khas.

Dr Kumar, according to the resolution draft, demanded that the most unfortunate incidents of kidnappings and forced conversions must be condemned unanimously by all members of the parliament.

“The bill against forced conversions which was unanimously passed by Sindh Assembly in 2016 and then reverted due to the pressure of extremist elements, must be resurrected and passed in the assembly on a priority basis,” said the resolution draft.

It also mentioned that the Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights has already unanimously approved the draft bill to amend the Child Marriage Restraint Act raising the minimum age of marriage to 18 years, and also by Sindh Assembly.

According to Dr Kumar, “the bill must be passed in National Assembly on an urgent basis, and implemented throughout the country in letter and spirit.”

Dr Ramesh Kumar, in his resolution, also demanded strict action against controversial religious elements including Mian Mithu Bharchoondi and Pir Ayub Jan Sirhindi for their alleged role in supporting such inhuman practice.

He asked the parliament to seek answers from such elements that why neither boys nor old women, but only young girls are converted?

“All of those who are preaching hate under the cover of religion must be handled like banned religious organisations,” the resolution stated.

The resolution to be presented by Dr Ramesh concluded that “ensuring a peaceful society is the responsibility of all Pakistanis and thus, regardless of minority or majority, all segments of society must struggle together to promote tolerance, interfaith harmony and protection of minorities’ rights, according to Quaid-e-Azam’s vision.”

 

 

Sushma-Fawad spat

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry and India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj exchanged words on Twitter on Sunday after the latter shared that she had asked the Indian high commissioner in Islamabad to give her a report on the alleged abduction two Hindu sisters from Sindh.

Chaudhry responded by saying 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 responded to Fawad, “I only asked for a report from Indian High Commissioner about the kidnapping and forced conversion... This was enough to make you jittery. This only shows your guilty conscience.”

Chaudhry replied 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,” he said.