Even as Pakistan tom-toms about the work it is doing for the Kartarpur Corridor, the Sikhs continue to face discrimination in the country and face difficulties even to safely practice their faith.
A 19-year old Sikh girl Jagjit Kaur was abducted, forcibly converted and married to a Muslim man in Nankana Sahib area of Lahore earlier this week. The girl’s father Bhagwan Singh is a ‘granthi’ (priest) at Gurudwara Tambu Sahib.
The incident created a furore in India with several political leaders across parties demanding action against the perpetrators. It sparked anger in the Sikh community worldwide with Union Minister Harsimrat Badal calling it a “shameful act”.
The latest incident of discrimination against minorities came at a time when the Sikhs worldwide are celebrating the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, and Pakistan can’t even guarantee the safety and security of the Sikh community on its soil.
With Islamabad being infamous for harbouring terrorists and separatist elements, cases of persecution of the minorities, including Sikhs have come to light several times in the past, despite Prime Minister Imran Khan vowing to protect the communities in his country.
Apart from that, major protests led by religious parties erupted in various cities across Pakistan after the country’s Supreme Court acquitted Christian woman Asiya Bibi in connection with a blasphemy case earlier this year. Fearing for their lives, Bibi and her family have fled to Canada to escape persecution.
The minority communities have repeatedly chided the Imran Khan-led government for not taking stringent steps to protect them.
Be it Hazara Shias, Ahmadis, Christians, Hindus or Sikhs, the repeated instances of violence and discrimination against them demonstrate that Pakistan remains the bastion of religious extremists and sectarian groups, with full patronage of the military.
This mullah-military nexus is what the current reality of Pakistan is.
While Pakistan claims to provide a safe atmosphere for the Sikhs and other minorities, in reality, it is openly propagating anti-India activities through the Khalistan movement on its soil.
In a significant development, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, in April, had raised concerns over increasing incidents of forced conversions and marriages of Hindu and Christian girls to Muslim men every year.
In its annual report, the watchdog said that the government has done little to stop forced marriages and urged the lawmakers to pass effective legislations to end the practice.
“Violence against women and girls — including rape, so-called honour killings, acid attacks, domestic violence, and forced marriage remains a serious problem. Around 1,000 cases of honour killings are reported every year,” the report said.
The report further stated that early marriage remains a serious problem, with around 21 per cent of girls in Pakistan marrying before the age of 18, and three per cent marrying before reaching the age of 15.
However, the report did not mention any authentic data on forced conversions and forced marriages of girls belonging to minority communities in the country.