Islamabad, July 20: A leading Pakistani newspaper on Thursday urged the government to provide protection to Hindus in the background of increasing cases of forcible conversion to Islam.
The Dawn said in an editorial that the part of the Thar desert that lies within Pakistan had long been a bastion of communal harmony.
“Given there is near parity between the Hindu and Muslim populations in the area, that peaceful coexistence has been an example for other Pakistanis to emulate,” it said.
“However, there have been indications for a while now that Thar’s benign social ethos is undergoing a change, a change that bodes ill for the future of those who call it home and one that may well have wider repercussions for the rest of the country.”
The Dawn said an investigative report about forced conversions of Hindus it carried detailed how “certain mullahs and feudals are exploiting poverty and class distinctions to put Thar’s Hindu community under unprecedented pressure…
“The spread of the madrassah culture has led to a wave of fundamentalism in which conversion to Islam, whether by force or otherwise, has become a means to an end.
“For one, the conversion of Hindu girls – many of them underage – and young women, is often used to ‘legitimize’ their kidnapping and rape.
“Cowed into submission, and afraid of rejection by their community if they return, they can do little else but say their conversion was voluntary.
“How else can one explain that young girls and women of marriageable age comprise the vast majority of such cases? Moreover, if they do convert willingly, why is it they never contact their families again?”
The daily accused “certain elements” of offering material inducement to impoverished Hindus to embrace Islam.
“The state has a duty to protect the Hindu community and its right to live as Hindus,” the Dawn said.