Lahore, Mar 2: A 19-year-old Hindu girl's abduction and her “forced” conversion to Islam in Pakistan's southern Sindh province triggered a protest by members of various minority communities in front of the Lahore Press Club.
Dozens of members of minority communities joined the protest yesterday to demand action by authorities in the case of Rinkle Kumari, who they alleged was kidnapped by the son of a Parliamentarian from Ghotki district of Sindh.
A large number of relatives of the girl, who belongs to Mirpur Mathelo in Ghotki district, too joined the protest. They claimed they were getting threats from the kidnappers and influential Muslims of the area.
Rinkle's relatives said they had taken refuge in a gurdwara in Lahore after these threats.
The protesters shouted slogans against the kidnappers and urged the PPP government in Sindh to trace Rinkle, who they said had given a statement in court that she was unwilling to convert to Islam and wanted to live with her parents.
Rinkle's relatives alleged Abdul Haq alias Mian Mitthu, a member of the National Assembly or lower house of Parliament, was backing the kidnappers.
They further claimed that Haq had pressurised the local magistrate to give a ruling in favour of the abductors and ignore the written testimony of Rinkle.
The girl's father, Nand Lal, is a teacher at the Government Primary School at Yorlund in Ghotki district. He told the Daily Times that Mian Aslam, the son of the local Parliamentarian, and his friend Naveed Shah kidnapped his daughter from his house last Friday.
Rinkle had passed the matriculation examination and arrangements had been made for her marriage, he said.
Initially, the police station in Mirpur Mathelo refused to register a case against the kidnappers though an FIR was lodged following a protest by Rinkle's relatives.
Rinkle and one of the alleged kidnappers, Naveed Shah, were produced later before Magistrate Hassan Ali Kalwar.
Rinkle denied that she wanted to convert to Islam and said she wanted to live with her parents but the judge sent her to a women's home and Shah was handed over to police on a one-day remand, Nand Lal said.
Mirpur Mathelo police, which is under “influence” of the Parliamentarian, presented Rinkle before a magistrate on Monday, Nand Lal said.
“The magistrate immediately handed over the girl to Haq's men, without asking the parents to appear before the court,” he added.
He said a large number of armed men were standing outside the court to bar Rinkle's family from entering the room.
Nand Lal said Haq and his “political and criminal allies” were forcing him to accept the magistrate's decision and had threatened to kill him and his family if he tried to protest.
Nand Lal said these threats had forced him to flee Sindh. “I could not hold a protest there, that is why I am raising my voice here,” he said.
In a related development, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) condemned the kidnapping of Rinkle and her alleged forced conversion.
It urged the government to immediately hold a judicial inquiry into the incident.
A statement issued by HRCP demanded protection for minorities. The statement said Rinkle was kept in custody of Haq, a PPP Parliamentarian. Following protests by the Hindu community, she was presented in court on February 25.
“She told the court that she wanted to go back to her parents. On the next date of hearing, February 27, no Hindu was allowed to enter the court, while a large number Muslims were present there,” the statement said.
“The court's judgement said, ‘The girl is saying that I want to go to my home. After marriage, her husband's home is her home. And I am allowing her to live with her husband.' According to the Hindu community, the girl was forcibly converted and given the Muslim name Faryal. It is not the first incident of its kind. Cases of forced conversion have been reported earlier also,” the statement said.
On Sunday, President Asif Ali Zardari directed authorities to investigate the kidnapping and sought a report from the Sindh government.
He called for “transparent and expeditious investigations” in the matter and for action in accordance with the law, regardless of the influence and status of anyone involved in the abduction.
Sindh has a sizeable population of Hindus, who are the largest minority community in Pakistan.
Hindus account for less than five per cent of Pakistan's total population of about 180 million.