June 9, 2023

By Maryam Missal


A case of alleged forced conversion and marriage of a 14-year-old Hindu girl was presented in Sindh high court on Friday June 9, five days after she was abducted from the Qazi Ahmed area of Shaheed Benazirabad. However the distressed minor girl was unable to record her statement. The court has extended the hearing till June 12, until which the girl will remain in police custody.

According to details, the minor was reportedly abducted at gunpoint by her tutor, Akhtar Ali Gabol, on June 4. The suspect was also accused of stealing gold and Rs100,000 in cash from the family.

By June 6, reports of the incident began surfacing on social media.

The father of the girl S*, Dileep Kumar, spoke to Voicepk.net.

“Akhtar was her teacher in a tuition centre, but he came to our house to abduct our child.”

Jamna, the mother of S*, stated that Akhtar had demanded Rs 100,000 from their daughter. Upon refusal, he and his accomplices stormed into their house, dragged their daughter out, and looted them of gold and cash.

After S’s parents filed an FIR, the girl was presented in the Larkana court on June 8. Documents of her conversion to Islam, an affadivit of ‘Free Will’ and a nikkah nama with Akhtar Ali were submitted to court by the accused. And while Dileep Kumar has his daughter’s B form which specifies her age to be just 14 years, documents presented by the accused party – allegedly fake – record her age as 18 years. According to the age on the B-Form S’s marriage to Akhtar Ali Gabol is automatically rendered illegal.

A distressed Dileep Kumar said that his daughter was still a minor and had not reached legal age.

Nand Kumar Goklani, a member of the Sindh Assembly, says that a bill to criminalize forced conversions has been presented in the Sindh Assembly twice – once in 2016 and another time in 2019. But, he said that the government itself did not seem in favour of passing the bill due to pressure from religious groups.

“The government tries to give an image of inclusivity by celebrating Holi and Diwali every year, when in reality they are not even protecting basic rights of Hindus in Sindh,” said Goklani.

On June 8, as the case was presented in the Larkana Court, the issue of forced conversions was brought before the Sindh Assembly. Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) MPA Lal Chand Ukrani stated that the situation was horrible and that no religion authorised forced marriages and conversions.

According to Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) MPA Mangla Sharma, S was an eighth grader who had been coerced into marrying and converting to a different religion. Mangla also confirmed her association with the child’s family.

History of Bills against Forced Conversions 

In December 2016, the Sindh Assembly passed a bill criminalizing forced conversions. According to this bill,

  • No person shall be deemed to have changed their religion until they attain the age of majority.

  • Any minor who claims to have changed their religion before attaining majority shall not be deemed to have changed their religion and no action shall be taken against him or her for any such claim or action made by the minor.

  • Any person who forcefully converts another person shall be liable to imprisonment of either description for a minimum of five years and a maximum of life imprisonment and a fine to be paid to the victim.

The bill was dismissed by then-Governor of Sindh, Saeed Uz Zaman Siddiqui, at the behest of the provincial government due to concerns raised by religious scholars.

In 2019, the Sindh Assembly once again rejected a proposed law that would have made forced religious conversions illegal. This was the province’s second effort to adopt legislation against conversion.

Goklani filed a revised version of the Criminal Law (Protection of Minorities) Bill in early April 2019 in response to the governor’s concerns.

The 2019 bill appears to remove the section 4 ban on child conversion and replace it with language that says “upon the final decision of conviction of accused, the conversion and marriage of child (if any) shall stand nullified.”

After that, the assembly members cast their votes on the bill. With the majority of government ministers voting against it, the bill was also ultimately defeated.


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