LAHORE: Prime Minister Imran Khan has issued directives to the Punjab and Sindh provinces to take immediate steps to recover two Hindu teenage girls allegedly abducted and forced to convert to Islam, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said.
“The PTI [Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf] government stands with the Hindu community on the abduction of its two girls from Sindh,” Chaudhry said while addressing a news conference at the Press Information Department (PID) on Sunday.
The incident came to light after the girls’ father and brother made impassioned pleas on social media claiming the sisters were abducted from the Daharki town of Ghotki, and forcefully converted to Islam before they were subjected to underage marriages.
The Premier’s directives came after Indian Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj and Chaudhry had a war of words on Twitter after she wrote she had asked the Indian envoy in Islamabad to give her a report on the alleged kidnapping of the two sisters from Ghotki.
“As soon the issue was highlighted on social media, Prime Minister Imran Khan took immediate notice and directed the governments of Sindh and Punjab to coordinate on the matter, while Ministry of Human Rights is also working on the issue,” the minister told reporters.
In an earlier tweet, the minister said the Prime Minister also directed the governments of Sindh and Punjab to adopt a joint strategy to prevent such incidents in future.
In the news conference, the minister said the girls were abducted from Sindh and reportedly taken to Punjab’s Rahim Yar Khan, and later, to Gujranwala. He said the Sindh police had made some arrests, while efforts were ongoing to recover the girls. “The white colour in the national flag representsminorities, and the sanctity of the flag can only be maintained when the white is equally respected along with the green,” he said, quoting the Prime Minister. “The PTI government under the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan is transforming Pakistan into Quaid-e-Azam’s Pakistan — where minorities are secure and all the citizens have equal rights.”
Chaudhry recounted his Twitter war of words with Swaraj. “I [tried to] convince her that Pakistan government has been making all-out efforts in this regard,” he said. “It is a good omen that India shows concern about minorities in Pakistan, but it should also ensure respect and equal rights to the minorities living in India as well.”
He said the minorities in India, including Muslims, were massacred in the western Indian state of Gujarat as well as in occupied Jammu and Kashmir. Minorities “are also subjected to tyranny and aggression on various pretexts, including the slaughtering of cow and use of its meat”.
The information minister said: “Crimes are committed in the world, but what matters is the respective governments’ attitude towards them.”
He cited the manner in which the New Zealand government stood by their minorities after the massacre of Muslims in Christchurch, “and the government of Pakistan also stands by its minorities on the issue of Hindu girls’ abduction”.
While responding to Swaraj’s tweet earlier in the day, Chaudhry said unlike Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s India, minorities enjoy equal rights in Naya Pakistan of Prime Minister Imran Khan.
The minister said: “Madam [Swaraj] its Pakistan internal issue and rest assure[d] it’s not Modi’s India where minorities are subjugated. Its Imran Khan’s Naya Pakistan where white color of our flag is equally dearer to us. I hope you will act with same diligence when it comes to rights of Indian minorities.”
In a twist of events, Geo News reported the sisters approached a court in Bahawalpur on Sunday and sought protection from their family, seemingly contradicting their family’s claims that they were abducted, forcefully converted, and wedded off under duress. In a separate viral video, the girls could be seen saying they accepted Islam of their own free will and looked relaxed.—