The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) expressed outrage and deep concern over the recently reported sudden religious conversions to Islam of Reena (21), Usha (19) and Rima (17) – daughters of Sanno Amra and Champa, a Hindu couple living in the Punjab Colony section of Karachi, Pakistan.
According to a widely circulated report in the Pakistan newspaper Dawn, entitled “Conversion losses” (http://www.dawn.com/weekly/mazdak/20051203.htm), the London based Pakistani commentator, Irfan Hussain, described the shock experienced by Sanno Amra and Champa when they returned home after work on October 18, 2005 to discover their three daughters had unexpectedly disappeared. Only after desperate queries to the police, affidavits stating the daughters’ conversions to Islam were received by the parents. Private visits with their daughters, free from chaperones and even police officers that supervised their only interactions thus far, have been consistently denied. After their disappearance from home, the girls have been living at a madrassa in the vicinity of their home and may potentially be denied the freedom to return home.
“The circumstances surrounding the sudden conversions raise strong suspicions of coercion and actual kidnapping,” said Ramesh Rao, Ph.D., member of the HAF Executive Council. “The Islamic Republic of Pakistan is known to be a cruel prison to all minorities, and Hindus in Pakistan have not just been reduced to a minuscule minority but they are being forced to suffer mental and physical torture in the process,” said Ramesh Rao.
In its recently released annual report on human rights of Hindus in South Asia in 2004, HAF observed that, “Non-Muslim citizens of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan are treated as separate and unequal citizens in a form of religious apartheid. The Constitution and laws of the land are overwhelmingly preferential to Islam, the State Religion, and Muslims. Systematic exclusion of Hindus and other minorities ranges from humiliations such that a non-Muslim lawyer cannot appear before Federal Shariat Court to Constitutional provisions that the President and Prime Minister of Pakistan must be Muslims. Religious extremism and fanaticism sponsored by the State that disenfranchise its own minority populations have engendered fringe factions that endanger the well-being and lives of minorities, including Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Ahmadiyas, and Shias.”
The population of Hindus in Pakistan in 1947, at the time of Partition, was estimated to be anywhere from 15 to 24 percent. In 1998 the Hindu population in Pakistan was 1.60 percent. “This decline of the Hindu population over half a century is stark evidence of the effects of the discriminatory nature of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan”, said Ramesh Rao.
The Hindu American Foundation seeks an immediate and open inquiry about the fate of Reena, Usha, and Rima Amra, and demands that in the meantime the three young women be put under the care and guardianship of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.