Thursday, 11 October 2012
Forced marriage, forced labour and police force of 'law'
A number of recent stories (plus one we missed from August) centre around force. Firstly, Christian MPA Saleem Khursheed Khokhar has submitted his recommendations for legislation around forced conversions and marriages. As readers of this blog will know, the kidnap, rape, forced conversion and marriage of minority girls, particularly Christians and Hindus, is epidemic in Pakistan. He cited ignorance, illiteracy and poverty as major factors in the phenomenon.
His suggestions include :
The automatic and immediate registering of a First Information Report (FIR) the moment someone reports a Hindu or Christian woman has been kidnapped.
A judicial officer, rather than a policeman should be in charge of the investigation.
If the girl is found, she should be taken to the regional safe house. If she has been found to have converted, she should be kept in the safe house free from outside influence for 21 days to consider her decision, and the law enforcement agencies should be vigilant to enforce this. (As an aside, while this measure would be a good start, the problem is that one means of control is the threat of killing or making false allegations of blasphemy against the girls family to keep her compliant).
He repeatedly noted that he is not being given security by the government, despite both Shahbhaz Bhatti and a Sindh MPA Malik Mohammed Atta being assassinated for standing up for the rights of minorities.
In another recent story, on Sunday 7th October, an incident in a Christian colony in Bhawalpur city between the staff at a liquor dealer called Muna Masih and the police led to an ugly incident where totally unconnected and innocent Christians, including a pastor, being held.
We have not been able to verify this report from other sources, but apparently every month the police used to come and take bribes (protection money?) from this business. This time, the staff apparently reacted and fought the police. A couple of hours later, the police returned in a rage with reinforcements - fourteen cars, wreaking violence in the colony, including burning a large number of houses (to what extent is unclear, but the claim is that 200 houses were affected). The police are said to have taken men and women from each house to the police station and mistreated them. The next morning the police arrived again and siezed a pastor Daud John and a Chemistry university student with him - neither of them had anything to do with the liquor seller or his gang. The report says the police looted the houses of valuables and destroyed furniture.
Finally, we missed a story in August about some Christians who had been in bonded labour (forced slavery) for 20 years. Mumtaz, a 56 year old woman told her story. She was forced to work without pay, tortured and beaten. Originally, workers from the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) traced 21 labourers who were being forced to work as slaves by two feudal landlords. Through court orders, the all the labourers bar two were released. The two were not released, in defiance of the court orders, were Mumtaz's two sons. When Mumtaz demanded their release, she and members of her family were enslaved again and threatened with false accusations of blasphemy. It took a year, despite the court order, for the family to escape their slavery. It took a year, but the HRCP managed to trace them and have them released. The uneducated family have been offered work as sanitation workers.