October 4, 2015 - Report on Congressional Briefing: Human Rights Situation in Sindh, Pakistan
Washington, D.C- A Congressional briefing on the human rights situation in Sindh, Pakistan was held in US Congress building under congresswoman Loretta Sanchez and was attended by Congressmen Brad Sherman and Adam Schiff. Issues related to rise of religious extremism, enforced or involuntary disappearances of Sindhi nationalists by Pakistan’s military, intelligence agencies and other agencies, forced conversions to Islam of Hindu women, and Sindh police’s torture policy called “Half Fry - Full Fry” were raised by the speakers.
T. Kumar of Amnesty International, U.S.A, and Hasan Mujtaba, a New York based journalist and human rights defender, were keynote speakers in the Congressional Cannon Building attended by Democrat Congressmen Brad Sherman, Adam Schiff and Congresswoman Loretta from California.
Opening the event on Human Rights issues in Pakistan’s Sindh province at US Congress Cannon House Building room, US Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, who has recently joined as the Co-Chair of Sindh Caucus in the Congress said, “majority inhabitants of Sindh province of Pakistan have been most tolerant, pluralistic and peace loving people but their province is now in humanitarian crisis due to terrible human rights violations and other crimes such as disappearances and assassinations of political activists and dissidents, forced conversions of Hindu women and religious extremist violence is on rise in Sindh. She said people are being disappeared and killed by the police and other law enforcement agencies; and there has been no investigation neither any punitive measures are being taken by the government so far.“ Political activists or dissidents are specifically targeted and Islamic extremism continues to grow in the Sindh province. The madhrassah network is constantly going against the Sindhi population. Sindh’s Hindu community live in constant fear of their women being forcibly converted to Islam,” said the congresswomen Loretta Sanchez in her welcoming remarks.
Sufi Laghari, executive director of Washington based Sindhi Foundation, taking the dice as moderator of the event raised the issue of marginalization of Sindhis in Sindh province of Pakistan in allocation and representation in jobs and other rights in Pakistan. He asked the attendees to conduct a survey and evaluate the situation starting from Pakistan’s embassy in Washington DC and consulates in other US cities as to how many Sindhis work there? “ He further added, “So is the state of Sindhis’ proportion of representation and there rights in other areas like army, police and other services in Pakistan”
Hasan Mujtaba, a New York based journalist and human rights defender raised in detail the issues of human rights violations in Sindh with various examples and updates on human rights violations in backdrop of mushrooming of madhrassahs network providing sanctuaries to the sectarian and religious militant groups with huge presence of Hafiz Saeed and his Jamatt ul Dawa in Sindh which serves as breeding ground for the forced conversion of young Hindu women and recruitment of local population for Jihadi groups.
Citing his research he said, ”Hafiz Saeed and his Jamatul Dawa are given a free hand to be active and operational in Sindh province specially in its desert Thar areas bordering India and coastal area of Thatta. Hafez Saeed’s outfit Jamatul Dawa has illegally occupied land reserved for a girls college in Mithi town in district Tharparkar, where a madressah is built and run the networks. Mosques are managed under the disguise of social welfare organization. in districts like Diplo, Nagarparkar, Mithi and other pats of Sindh,”
The journalist Hasan Mujtaba further added, “Hafiz Saeed’s organization operating in the desert area of Thar was allowed to collect hides of sacrificial animals during recent Eid ul Udha (the largest Muslim festival) to generate funds while secular and anti- Jihadi organizations were not allowed to carry out their welfare activities in the area,”
Bringing the issue of forced conversions of Hindu women to the attention of the members of the Congress through his written paper Hasan Mujtaba said, “If you are a Hindu and a parent of a young girl living in Sindh, your most dreaded fear is of forced conversion of your daughter to Islam anytime.”
Updating on the forced conversion of Hindu women he citied the case of three minor girls Anjali Meghwar, Ram Payari Oad and Puja who were of minors age under 18 but were forcibly converted to Islam despite legislation in Sindh assembly called Restriction of Child Marriage Act of 1914.” He said even the human rights defender who pursued the cases against forced conversion were receiving death threats.
T. Kumar, the Director of the Amnesty International U.S.A said, “Disappearances in Sindh are happening for last 5 years but nobody is taking notice and neither is anybody arrested in disappearance and extrajudicial killings of political activists in Sindh. He mentioned the case of disappearances and subsequent killing of Sindhi nationalist Raja Dahir Bhanbhro by torture in months of June-July 2015. He said Sindhi and Pakistani community must take notice and raise voice against disappearances of political activists. He said that not raising voice would encourage the perpetrators of the disappearances to be unaccounted for their deeds.
Speaking on the occasion Congressman Adam Schiff, who is also a member of Sindh Caucus in congress, thanked the speakers to bring Sindh‘s human rights issues to the attention of the congress through the event in the Congress Building.
Also speaking on the occasion congressman Brad Sherman said, “we are building bridges between Sindh and the people of the United States. We want American government to communicate with the people of Sindh in Sindhi language. We are still not successful to bring the broadcast of Voice of America in Sindhi Language.” “There is no country more important to the security of America than Pakistan and there is no community more tolerant than Sindhi speaking community of Pakistan,” said Brad Sherman who has been instrumental in recent launching of Sindhi language website of the US consulate Karachi.”
The briefing in the Cannon building was attended by community and staff of the members in good numbers.