Religious persecution and forced conversion continues unabated in Pakistan as dozens of Hindu families were converted to Islam in June in the Badin district of Sindh Province in southern Pakistan, which borders with Gujarat's Kutch at its south. According to a New York Times report, the mass ceremony was the latest in line of growing number of attempts by various religious organisations to continue the conversions of people into Islam.
Treated as second-class citizens, the Hindus of Pakistan are often systemically discriminated against in every walk of life — housing, jobs, access to government welfare. While minorities have long been drawn to convert in order to join the majority and escape discrimination and sectarian violence, Hindu community leaders say that the recent uptick in conversions has also been motivated by newfound economic pressures.
The report says it to be a path taken by those Hindus who are seeking to improve their social status and financial standing. It adds that various organisations promise the members of minority community financial assistance in lieu of conversion, and since not many well-to-do Hindus are left in Pakistan anymore, people get converted to get the help from the people of their newly found religion.
“What we are seeking is social status, nothing else,” said Muhammad Aslam Sheikh, whose name was Sawan Bheel until June, when he converted in Badin with his family.“These conversions,” he added, “are becoming very common in poor Hindu communities.”
With Pakistan’s economy on the brink of collapse in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the pressures on the country’s minorities, often its poorest people, have increased, The New York Times reported.
At the time of independence in 1947, Hindus composed 20.5 percent of the population of the areas that now form Pakistan. In the following decades, the percentage shrank rapidly, and by 1998 — the last government census to classify people by religion — Hindus were just 1.6 percent of Pakistan’s population. Most estimates say it has further dwindled in the past two decades.