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Human rights group urges investigation into forced religious conversions in Pakistan

CHRISTIAN
Aamir QURESHI | AFP
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Activists cite a growing number of abductions and forced marriages of Christian and Hindu girls.

A human rights advocacy group in Pakistan has urged the government to investigate a growing number of cases of forced religious conversions in Punjab province, reported UCANews.

In a letter to the Parliamentary Committee for Protection for Forced Conversion, the Centre of Social Justice listed 74 cases of forced conversion of minority girls — 55 Christian, 18 Hindu and one Kalashiya — that have been reported since 2014.

The abduction and forced marriage and conversion of 14-year-old Maira Shabbaz made international headlines after she was kidnapped at gunpoint in April. Shabbaz has reportedly escaped her Muslim abductor and is now living in hiding with her family, according to the UCANews report.

“The abuse of religion and law is a growing phenomenon in Punjab. The minorities feel insecure due to the incidents of forced conversions, particularly of young Christian and Hindu girls. This is a long-standing human rights concern,” said the Centre for Social Justice and the People’s Commission on Minorities Rights in a press release issued on September 1.

The state religion of Pakistan is Islam, and over 96% of the population is Muslim. While the country’s constitution allows its citizens the right to practice their religion, it also requires that all laws conform with the Quran. Religious minorities face discrimination and are subject the Pakistan’s blasphemy law, which critics have charged has been used to persecute religious minorities.

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