It is about to be close to a month since PTI leader Imran Khan took over as the Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Beginning his tenure, Khan had indicated that his focus would be on governance, fighting the menace of corruption and improving the economic situation of the country which has come under increasing international pressure for terror groups flourishing on its soil.
Imran Khan repeatedly addressed the nation before and after his swearing-in ceremony portraying an image of austerity measures being adopted in the national interest and appealing to the patriotic Pakistanis to assist in the development of the nation.
While the rhetoric on development and governance continued, one expected a change of heart and narrative in Pakistan: from miseries of the people in Balochistan, Sindh, KPK and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) to a stronger focus on people-centric projects on the ground and a hope against hope for violence to decrease. Yet, behind the scenes, in slow motion, the real policy implementation of Pakistan Government was underway: from forced religious conversions to ethnic and religious minorities being subjugated by the puppet of the Pakistan Army.
In the first week of September came the first major announcement that shook the silent liberal elite inside Pakistan. Imran Khan had made up its mind to succumb under pressure from the religious fanatics who anyway have backed PTI's campaigning across the country. Atif Mian, an eminent economist was shown the door from the Economic Advisory Council of the Government.
Atif's crime was that he belonged to the minority Ahmadi or Ahmadiyya community who were declared non-Muslims in 1974 by Pakistan. The community has come under violent attacks often by the extremist Sunni groups. Several other members of the Council quit protesting the abrupt removal of Atif Mian.
In Sindh, however, there was a different game underway. Forced conversation of Hindus has been reported regularly from this part of Pakistan, yet this time there was an official sanction given to it. A 15-year-old Hindu girl, Virsha, was abducted from Tando Allahyar and sent to Pir Ayub Sehrandi by her abductors. The girl was shown as a 19-year-old and forcibly converted to Islam.
'The national media sweep aside such issues. Are these not daughters of the state. Where is civil society and activists?', asks an agitated Veengas, a journalist hailing from the Hindu community in Sindh who has been vocal about such conversations since last few years.
The incident in Sindh was followed by a similar forced conversation of a Hindu girl in Balochistan. A young Hindu girl, Kamini, daughter of Nanak Chandar, who is said to be 18 (not corroborated) was abducted and married off after the forced conversation in Kalat of Balochistan. Documents now show her name as Bibi Imaan married to Mohamad Anwar.
These cases of forced religious conversion are not isolated incidents. It has been a systematic campaign over years which is silently now getting sanction from the establishment and the military. On March 25 this year, over 500 Hindus were forcefully converted in a huge tent at Masha Allah Shadi Hal of Sindh in Hyderabad. The event was organised by a local political leader of Parvez Musharraf's party. Many of them fled to India seeking refuge.
'Forced religious conversion is the biggest state failure. Anti-conversion law which was passed by the Sindh assembly in November 2016 was backtracked under religious pressure before it could be ratified. Pakistan's minorities are on their own', says journalist Naila Inayat questioning the state apparatus.
On the other hand, activists protesting against forced occupation in Gilgit-Baltistan have been tortured, abducted and even arrested against their fundamental rights. Yawar Abbas, an activist was arrested from Gilgit under the draconian Anti-terror law for raising voice against the establishment in Pakistan who treat them as second-class citizens. Such abductions are common not just in Gilgit but across Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) and Balochistan as well where rights of common people are crushed and the rule of the military prevails even above the local administration.
With Imran Khan's take over, Rawalpindi is directly calling the shots while the world watches in disbelief. Imran Khan has conducted at least three meetings with Pakistan Army Chief General Bajwa already and was given a briefing at the ISI HQ for over eight hours recently.
The minorities in Pakistan live on the edge each day. While the Ahmadis continue to fight silently to regain their identity which was snatched by the Islamist fanatics, the Hindus, Christians and the ethnic minorities search for freedom from the clutches of Islamist fanatics and the military.