Washington, DC – The recent incident of kidnapping, rape, and forced conversion and marriage of a young Sikh girl, Dina Kaur, in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province belies the claim by Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) founder Gurpatwant Singh Pannun who said that the Sikh community is living happily in Pakistan.
Responding to a question from Global Strat View on whether SFJ will include Pakistan’s Sikh community in the so-called Khalistan referendum, Pannun said they would not since “there are 20,000 or 25,000 Sikhs who are living happily and they call Pakistan their home.” SFJ has continued to exclude Pakistan’s Punjab and other provinces from its proposed Khalistan, although Lahore used to be the capital of the erstwhile Sikh kingdom of Ranjit Singh.
Meanwhile, in a demonstration in Buner district of KP on September 8, representatives of the Sikh community and organizations of the Pakistan Panchayat directly appealed to the global Sikh community to join them for the release ‘of our daughter.’ “I beseech all Sikhs to demonstrate solidarity with us wherever they are, and if possible, join our demonstration against the high-handedness, cruelty, and attack on us. Our daughter has been kidnapped, tortured, and forced to sign a false affidavit and forced nikahnama (Muslim marriage contract).”
Community leaders also appealed to their Pakhtoon brethren to join them in their fight for justice, adding, “If they do not stand by us in this hour of struggle for justice, I am afraid we have no place in this country.”
Dina was abducted at gunpoint from her home in Buner district on August 20, raped, forcibly converted to Islam, and married to her rapist. The family has been made to run from pillar to post, but the authorities have not redressed their grievances and given false assurances while Dina was undergoing untold suffering. “All the authorities have misled us in Pakistan. Our demonstration will continue until we get justice.”
USCIRF’s 2022 Annual Report states, “Abduction, forced conversion to Islam, rape, and forced marriage remained imminent threats for religious minority women and children, particularly from the Christian, Hindu, and Sikh faiths” in Pakistan.
In October 2021, a Pakistan parliamentary committee rejected a proposed bill to protect minorities against forced conversion. The bill was also opposed by Pakistan’s Ministry of Religious Affairs, with members arguing that imposing an age limit for conversions by non-Muslims “goes against Islam and the Constitution of Pakistan.”
USCIRF’s Annual Report notes that In 2021, “religious freedom conditions in Pakistan continued their negative trajectory. The year was filled with reports of targeted killings, lynching, mob violence, forced conversions, and desecration of houses of worship and cemeteries. These violations targeted religious minorities, including the Ahmadiyya Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Sikh, and Shi’a Muslim communities. The government continued systematically enforcing blasphemy, anti-Ahmadiyya, and cybercrime laws while failing to protect religious minorities from nonstate actors such as Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), a far-right Sunni Islamist organization with growing influence in Pakistan.” The Pakistani government has publicly condemned mob violence but has done little to protect religious minorities or provide justice.