Voices Of Resistance: Advocating For Justice In Pakistan's Forced Conversion Cases

Voices Of Resistance: Advocating For Justice In Pakistan's Forced Conversion Cases
Neha Parvez, managed to flee after being coerced into converting to Islam. Her maternal aunt deceived both Neha and her mother by promising that she has need of Neha to take care of her son, who was hospitalised at the time. Neha's mother believed that she would be safe with her aunt but unfortunately, Neha's aunt betrayed their trust and handed over her to an older Muslim man who had children around the same age as Neha. Later she was converted forcibly and married off to a Muslim man.

Neha is 18 years now and she was 13 years at the time of incident, she recounted her experience, revealing that one day the daughter of the man who claimed to be her husband gave her a burqa and urged her to escape if she wanted to flee. Neha made the decision to escape, despite having no money to support her journey. Feeling trapped in her circumstances, she believed leaving that place was her only option. Neha embarked on a bus journey towards her parents' home, explaining to the bus operator that she had been robbed and had no money.

Neha, currently residing in Karachi, has found refuge in the shelter home known as "Living Hope," which is managed by Pastor Ghazala Shafiq. The issue of conversions in Pakistan continues to be a persistent and contentious topic, generating ongoing debate and controversy.

Religious minorities believe that conversions are often forced upon them, while Muslim clerics and religious-political organisations argue that they are voluntary acts of self-admiration and attraction to Islam. The process is currently being carried out by individual clerics without legal authority, leading to disputes and further controversy.

Numerous activists, rights organisations and religious minorities asserts that every conversion is suspicious, exploitative, and questionable. While they have no objections if someone willingly converts, the concern lies in ensuring transparency throughout the process. The community lacks trust in clerics due to their vested interests, and there is a need for state organisation and legislation to address this issue.

In her interview with The Friday Times, Neha revealed that her aunt had already converted to Islam, and they were residing on the ground floor of the same building in Muhajir Camp one of the localities of Karachi.

On request of her aunt, she and her two years younger brother accompanied their aunt, assuming they were going to the hospital. However, instead of heading towards the hospital, her aunt took them to unknown place without providing any explanation. It was during this time that Neha realized she had been deceived, as she was handed over to a man who locked her in a small room, while her brother was separated from her.

According to Neha, she was coerced into converting to Islam and marrying a man under threat that her brother would be killed if she refused. Her brother had also faced physical abuse multiple times. Eventually, in order to protect her brother and herself, she felt compelled to sign the marriage documents and falsely declare herself as a Muslim.

Luckily the girl supported her that’s why she is here now, if she hadn't received assistance from that girl who provided her with the burqa, she believed that she would never have been able to escape.

Another girl Mishel Munawar, a 14-year-old residing in the "Living Hope," radiates happiness as she interacts with her friends who are also staying at the shelter.

In December 2022, Mishel was converted to Islam and married Noman Ali, a resident of Baldia Karachi. However, Noman is currently in prison due to their marriage violating the Marriage Restriction Act, which prohibits marriages involving individuals under the age of 18. Since Mishel was underage at the time of their marriage, she had to return to her father's custody through court order.

Mishel's story differs from Neha's, as she was led astray by a Muslim individual who enticed her with visions of prosperity, leading her to decide to convert. Reflecting on her actions, Mishel now realizes her mistake and devoutly recites passages from the Bible every day, seeking forgiveness for mistakes she may have made during her transition from Christianity to Islam.

She acknowledges her errors and takes responsibility for the added difficulties her choices caused her family, particularly her father. Mishel also faces her own struggles due to her parents' separation and subsequent divorce, which have deeply affected her.

Mishel reveals her story, she told that initially, Noman told her that if she converted and married him, he would take care of all her needs. However, Mishel later realised that she was misled.

In their first attempt, Noman and Mishel went to an Islamic cleric, (Molvi), and recited the Kalima (Islamic declaration of faith). Molvi announced that Mishel is now a Muslim. She mentioned that Noman's family was not willing to accept her despite what Noman had previously told her. Noman didn't have a job or any means of earning, and for several weeks, they moved from one place to another as guests, relying on Noman's contacts. Eventually, the Molvi who converted Mishel provided her with a place to stay, while Noman's relatives outright refused to accept her.

The claim of forced conversions, as highlighted by Christianity and other activists, may not apply in Mishel's case. Mishel herself reveals that she willingly chose to convert and marry Noman for the sake of prosperous future.

However, Faqeer Shive, belonging to the Menghwar community, as considered an indigenous group, holds the belief that people are not genuinely impressed by the glory of Islam but rather coerced or enticed into conversion. He cites instances where girls are kidnapped and threatened to their families, how they refuse to give statement against the abductor in such circumstances, He added.

He believes that those who are misled for conversion it is forced too.

According to Pastor Ghazala Shafiq, who oversees the "Living Hope" shelter home, there are numerous obstacles faced when pursuing cases related to force conversion. The first step is reporting the incidents to the police, but unfortunately, the police often fail to follow the proper legal procedures. As a result, they are required to submit various applications and complaints in court to streamline the cases. Pastor Ghazala expressed her concerns about how the police mishandle these cases.

When asked about any threats she may face, Pastor Ghazala mentioned that she provides moral support and shelter to these girls, and although she hasn't received any direct threats at the moment, there is a risk, especially if the cases go viral on social media. In such instances, it can be dangerous not only for the affected girls but also for herself, as they have faced death threats in the past.

Pastor emphasised that the girls who have been converted face multiple challenges, including psychological issues, fear, separation from their parents, and the transition from one religion to another. Additionally, they are often subjected to sexual assault, particularly when they are underage.

While statistics obtained from ‘Centre for Social Justice’s publication, Human Rights Observer’, it reveals that at least 124 incidents in 2022 were reported of forced religious conversion, involving girls and women from religious minorities which included 81 Hindu, 42 Christian, and one Sikh. 23% of girl victims were below 14 years of age, 36% of them were between the age of 14 and 18 years, and only 12% were adults, while the age of 28% of victims was not reported. 65% of cases of forced faith conversions were reported in Sindh, followed by 33% in Punjab, and one case each in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan was recorded.

A high occurrence was reported in districts of Sindh province including; Mirpur Khas, Umerkot, Badin, Tharparkar, Ghotki, Sanghar and Karachi, majority of Hindus are living in these districts of the province, while a high occurrence was reported from districts of Punjab province including; Lahore, Faisalabad and Gujranwala.

According to CSJ’s publication, Silence of the Lamb, 1,733 faith conversions were reported from 2000 to 2012, while 159 incidents of forced conversion took place between 2013 and 2019, and 78 complaints were reported in 2021 alone.

Minority rights activist differ with statistics, they believe that 20 Hindu girls are converted every month from Sindh all are coerced to convert, claims Mohan Lal an activist.

Pakistan is country which no regarding the conversion. There is neither a legal definition of the term ‘forced conversion in Pakistan, nor a specific law exists to deal with complaints of forced religious conversion at federal or provincial levels.

However, laws dealing with the offense of adduction, child marriage, and forced marriage do exist. For instance, child marriage is a criminal offense under Child Marriage Restraint Acts in Sindh below the 18 years, and forced marriage with a woman (non-Muslim) is a criminal offense under Section 498-B of the Pakistan Penal Code.


The Centre for Social Justice has been engaging in research and advocacy efforts on the issue of forced faith conversions, and supporting “Prohibition of Forced Conversions law” to criminalize this practice, however, the religious bodies particularly the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony (MoRA) and the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) raised objections to the proposed provisions regarding the limitation of the minimum age and the adoption of a legal procedure for faith conversion, and termed the bill against the principles of sharia, and an attempt to limit Muslims’ right to religious freedom to convert Non-Muslims to Islam.

Regarding legislation, Nand Kumar Goklani, a member of the Sindh assembly representing the Pakistan Muslim League Functional (PMLF), introduced a bill to address the issue of forced conversions. In response, on November 24, 2016, the provincial assembly passed a new law known as the "Criminal Law (Protection of Minorities) Act, 2015." The law specifically prohibits forced religious conversions.

However, religious political parties and influential clerics exerted pressure on the Governor of Sindh, urging him to refuse assent to the "Criminal Law (Protection of Minorities) Act, 2015." As a result, the Governor sent the bill back to the provincial assembly for reconsideration, without giving his assent. Currently, the bill is still pending and awaiting further deliberation by the assembly since 2016.

Similarly, the federal government also failed to cultivate consensus on the legislation among religious and government bodies which resulted in the refusal by the members of the “Parliamentary Committee to Protect Minorities from Forced Conversions” to consider the Bill for vetting by the parliament on October 13 2021.


The Parliamentary Committee refused to listen to the arguments offered by minority parliamentarians in favour of the Bill, and ended up failing to achieve its purpose and becoming dysfunctional.

Senator Lal Malhi, who was a member of the committee representing the federal government led by Imran Khan Niazi, disclosed that the Muslim members of the committee faced obstacles in introducing legislation on this matter. He mentioned that due to pressure from religious organizations and extremists, the committee was unable to proceed with any legislation. As a result, the committee was ultimately abandoned, according to Senator Lal Malhi's statement.

Faqeer Shiv said that they have only option to register the complaints of minority girls/women as an offense of abduction under section 365-B of the Pakistan penal code on nearly all FIRs because no such law prevails which restrict the force conversion.

The province of Sindh in Pakistan is home to the majority of Hindus, who are recognized as an indigenous group. Mian Abdul Haq known as Mian Mithu of the Bharchundi shrine in the District Ghotki and Pir Ayub Jan Sarhendi in thar desert district Umer Kot are actively involved in conversions. Additionally, numerous smaller clerics are also allowed to perform conversions without any intervention from state authorities.

Sarhendi, emphasises his family's commitment to promoting and upholding Islam. He strongly denies targeting Hindus and emphasises Islam's teachings of harmony, coexistence, and inclusivity. He believes that conversion serves the cause of Islam. While conducting conversions, assert that those who convert are genuinely impressed by Islam. They maintain that the conversions are voluntary and based on the individual's admiration for the religion.

Ghazal Shafiq stated that, based on her experience with these girls, very few of them convert willingly or genuinely due to religious conviction. In her shelter home, only two girls, Arzoo and Mishel, converted because the culprits promised them property in their dreams. When Pastor Ghazala asked Arzoo if she genuinely embraced Islam, Arzoo refused, stating that she was misled.

These incidents often occur within poor families who lack strong community connections, making them vulnerable targets for abductors. These families are unable to protect their girls due to poverty and fear.

Religious minorities and human rights organisations strongly believe that the government should take proactive measures to address the issue of force conversions. They emphasise that finding a solution is crucial not only for the well-being and rights of religious minorities but also to prevent potential negative consequences for Pakistan on an international scale. By proactively addressing this issue, the government can demonstrate its commitment to protecting the rights of all citizens and promote a more inclusive and tolerant society.