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Data plea over Pakistan's forced marriages, conversions

Minority commission tells police chiefs to step up efforts to protect the rights of non-Muslims

Data plea over Pakistan's forced marriages, conversions

A 2013 file image of a young Pakistani girl who escaped a forced marriage in the Madyan valley of Swat in Pakistan’s northwest. (Photo: AFP)

The head of an official Pakistani minority commission has directed provincial police chiefs to keep a separate record of data regarding forced marriage and conversion of minority girls.

The Commission on Implementation of Minority Rights was set up by Pakistan’s top court in 2014 to ensure implementation of its landmark 2014 ruling on protection of non-Muslim Pakistanis.

Shoaib Suddle, who heads the commission, chaired a meeting of the police inspector generals of Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, Islamabad and Gilgit-Baltistan on Feb. 22 to review cases of forced marriages and conversions, state-run news agency APP reported.

He directed the police to modify investigation patterns and official hierarchy while probing these cases.

The commission also demanded implementation of the Supreme Court’s judgment in a minority rights case in 2014.

The court ordered the federal government to constitute a task force tasked with developing a strategy of religious tolerance; develop curricula at school and college levels to promote a culture of religious and social tolerance; ensure that hate speech on social media is discouraged and offenders are brought to justice; constitute a National Council for Minorities’ Rights; establish a special police force to protect minorities’ places of worship; and enforce policy directives regarding reservation of quota for minorities in all services.

“Forced religious conversions and marriages with Hindu and Christian girls are mostly taking place in Punjab and Sindh. This is damaging the country’s image at the global level,” Suddle told the police chiefs.

He called for separate data on such crimes in order to formulate recommendations for proper legislation.

“A foolproof mechanism should be devised to ensure proper age determination of the victim girls and, in cases of forced marriages, there should be a thorough investigation to verify whether the girls had given their consent willingly or under coercion,” Suddle said.

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