KARACHI: Pakistan's Sindh Assembly has unanimously passed a resolution demanding that the practice of forced conversions and abductions of Hindu girls must be stopped and action be taken against those involved in such activities.
The resolution - moved on Tuesday by Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) lawmaker Nand Kumar Goklani - was supported by the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party as well as Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and the hardline Jamaat-e-Islami, the Express Tribune reported.
The resolution comes months after the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in its annual report in April raised concerns about incidents of forced conversions and marriages of Hindu and Christian girls, saying around 1,000 such cases were reported in the southern Sindh province alone last year.
In March, two Hindu teenage sisters - Raveena (13) and Reena (15) - were allegedly kidnapped by a group of "influential" men from their home in Ghotki district in Sindh on the eve of Holi. Soon after the kidnapping, a video went viral in which a cleric was purportedly shown soleminising the marriage of the two girls, triggering a nationwide outrage.
Introducing the resolution in the House, Kumar said that around 40 Hindu girls, mostly minors, from Badin, Thatta, Mirpurkhas, Karachi, Tando Mohammad Khan, Khairpur Mirs, Hyderabad and other areas, have been forced to convert religion in the last few months.
"This assembly has passed a law against child marriages. The minor girls of our community go missing and later appear in a seminary where they tie the knot with a Muslim boy," he said, adding that all this is being done under pressure.
Kumar, who had earlier moved a bill against forced conversions, briefed the House about legislation and the then governor's dissident note and said, "This assembly passed a law against forced conversions, but after the governor's objection, I have submitted another draft, which is still pending approval".
He indirectly criticised the treasury bench for not taking steps to stop the practice in the province. "This is our motherland. Since the creation of Pakistan, we the minorities have always remained loyal to Pakistan just like our Muslim brothers. Where should we go if our girls are converted?" he asked.
He said that most Hindus have left Pakistan because of this, "but we want to live and die here. Please give us protection and don't force us to leave this country".
Mangla Sharma of MQM, while supporting the resolution, questioned why only Hindu girls are being kidnapped.
"We respect all religions, but the question arises why Hindu boys are not so impressed to convert religion," she said.
"Despite different pressures on us, we will not leave this land and have decided to fight these elements who work against us," Sharma said.
PTI MPA Khurrum Sher Zaman suggested to remove the name of Hindu girls from the resolution and said, "...we should avoid using such words like Hindu girls' as this defames Pakistan aboard."
Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Mukesh Kumar Chawla assured the House that the government was serious in introducing a law against forced conversion.
Abdul Rashid of Jamaat-e-Islami supported the resolution but rejected the notion that only girls are being converted.
Minorities Affairs Minister Hari Ram Kishori Lal affirmed that the issue of kidnapping of Hindu girls exists and said, "We are making efforts to control it", the paper reported.
However, he did not share what strategy the government would adopt to stop this practice, it added.
After the discussion, the assembly passed the resolution which reads, "This House resolves that the provincial government take notice of recent surge of the kidnapping of girls from various districts of Sindh and take steps to arrest the culprits and give them exemplary punishment and stop forced conversions".
Hindus form the biggest minority community in Pakistan.
According to official estimates, 75 lakh Hindus live in Pakistan. However, according to the community, over 90 lakh Hindus are living in the country.
Majority of Pakistan's Hindu population is settled in Sindh province where they share culture, traditions and language with their Muslim fellows.