March 23rd, 2022
By Rehan Piracha and Shafique Shar
The gruesome killing of Hindu girl Pooja Kumari in Sukkur debunks any notion that girls belonging to minority communities voluntarily chose to marry and convert to another religion and are not subjected to any coercion, says Kesoo Mal Kheeal Das, a minority lawmaker from the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz.
On March 21, the 18-year-old Hindu girl was shot dead in her house in Rohri town while resisting an alleged suitor who wanted to forcibly marry her.
The member of the National Assembly says Kumari’s alleged assailant was her neighbor who was harassing her for a long time.
The lawmaker says he will take up the issue of Pooja Kumari’s murder in the National Assembly whenever its session is called so that a parliamentary committee constituted on legislation on forced conversion could be made functional again. He says no meeting of the parliamentary committee has been called ever since the religious affairs ministry and the Council of Islamic Ideology rejected a draft bill on forced conversion based on its recommendations. He says the killing highlighted the need for strict enforcement of laws relating to the protection of women and children in the country.
Another minority legislator Lal Chand Malhi, from the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, says the Sindh government has failed to protect minority communities and women in the province.
“Yet another teenage girl Pooja Kumari has been brutally murdered today as she resisted abduction and forced conversion attempt in Rohri, Sindh. Puja, hats off to your courage & strength. Sindh govt continuously failing to protect minorities,” the member of National Assembly tweeted on March 22.
He accuses Pakistan People’s Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto of staying silent on atrocities committed against Hindu girls in the province ruled by his party. “Bilawal Bhutto Zardari demanded an investigation by ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) when a toy drone hit her sister Asifa. He is silent when Hindu girls are being kidnapped, raped, converted & killed. Pooja was shot dead when she resisted a move of her abduction/forced conversion @Rohri.”
Lal Chand Malhi says the victim’s family was also prevented from holding a demonstration by the local police. “The PPP’s Sindh govt even do not allow the poor Hindus to protest, as police stop protesting mourners carrying the dead body of Pooja at Rohri – who was killed resisting an attempt of abduction for forced conversion,” he wrote in his tweet.
According to local police, Pooja Kumari was killed when the accused Wahid Lashari broke into the house of his neighbor Sahib Odh and tried to kidnap his 18-year-old daughter in an attempt to forcibly marry her.
Police say Lashari shot dead Pooja Kumari when she refused to accompany him and the scene. Police registered a murder case against three suspects and arrested Lashari seven hours later.
The incident began trending with the hashtag of Justice for Pooja Kumari as videos and pictures of the girl’s dead body were widely shared on social media.
Pooja Kumari’s distraught mother wailed for justice along with his other little children in videos shared on social media. She appealed to the government to bring the killers of her daughter to justice.
On March 22, a local court remanded the accused in police custody for ten days. Police say the suspect has confessed to the murder and the murder weapon was also recovered from him.
On social media, citizens and human rights activists deplored the killing of Pooja Kumari and called on the government to ensure the safety of women and the minority community in the country.