Daily Briefs

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06 June 2020, Saturday, Vol 1, No.37

On the conversions of Hindu girls and the Ertugrual mania within Pakistan

Conversion of Hindu girls and their marriage; Pervez Hoodbhoy's on the Ertugrul mania; Imran's decision not to impose another lockdown; ADB report highlighting Pakistan as top three borrowers and new trouble brewing in South Waziristan

PR Daily Brief | PR Team

In Focus

Pakistan's Silent Women: Story of Reena and Raveena; problem solved but the issue still remains

In the news
Reena and Raveena have finally reconciled with their families after a year of conflict. (Asif Mahmood, "Hindu sisters who married Muslim men reconcile with families," The Express Tribune, 5 June 2020) The two sisters belonging to the Hindu community converted to Islam last year after they married Muslim men. In March 2019, the girls were allegedly kidnapped and forcibly converted to Islam, claiming that they were underage and thus unable to make such decisions.

The community had also staged protests for the girls to be returned home and the incident became a breaking point for the issue of forced conversion of Hindu girls. ("Protest against 'forced' conversion of Hindu girls," Dawn, 25 March 2019) (Malik Asad, "Ghotki girls' father seeks age test in 'forced conversion' case," Dawn, 2 April 2019) In response, the girls had approached the Islamabad High Court (IHC) along with their husbands, in their plea, they confessed of willingly embracing Islam and marrying Muslim men. After a detailed inquiry into the problem, the court stated the two were adult enough to make their own decisions and that they were not forced to convert.

Issues in the background

The abduction and conversion of Hindu women have been a major issue in Sindh province where the majority of Pakistani Hindus live. While some cases make it to the public eye most of these cases do not get reported.

First, kidnapping in the first step in this process. The victim is usually abducted and taken to a mosque where clerics or family members of the men either blackmail or threaten to harm the victim if she resists. The victim then complies and is brought to a local court where signing the papers affirming her conversion and marriage is the only option she might have. Most often these abductions have taken place in Sindh's rural areas of Umerkot, Tharparkar, and Ghotki where lower caste, economically vulnerable Hindu girls of marriageable age are abducted. 

Second, 'forced conversions' of young girls is a controversial issue within the Hindu community of Sindh. Upon the girl's declaration that she has wilfully converted and consented to the marriage; the case is settled without justice for the girls or their families. Further, once they convert, there is no turning back, for renunciation would mean a death sentence. In most cases, women are prohibited to meet their families on the grounds that they are nonbelievers and thus no one usually hears from these women.  

Third, loopholes in legislation and inefficient implementation and protection of women and child rights have not been able to take this issue. Pakistan has failed to protect non-Muslim women and girls from exploitation. In most of these cases, the girls are taken to Punjab to be married in Punjab, where the law does not bar marriages of those younger than 18, unlike Sindh. Further, sexual abuses are ruled out when conversion and marriage certificates are presented allowing the authorities to pardon the abductors. Further, pressure from the religious group has twisted the government's arm while addressing this issue.

Also read:

Naeem Sahoutara and Ali Ousat, "THE STRANGE CASE OF THE SILENT WOMEN," Dawn, 10 November 2019

Sulema Jahangir, "Forced conversions," Dawn, 12 April 2020

Hoodbhoy on Pakistan's dangerous "Ertugal Mania"

On 6 June, Pervez Hoodbhoy warned of the "dangerous delusional" influence the Turkish drama series, Dirilis: Ertugrul, is having on Pakistan, in his article in the Dawn. Hoodbhoy says that as of 5 June, the YouTube viewership for the 30th Urdu dubbed episode had tallied up to 5.5 million on Pakistan Television. He argues that the obsession is dangerous for numerous reasons. ("Dangerous delusions – Ertugrul mania," Dawn, 6 June 2020) ("Dubbed as the 'Muslim Game of Thrones', Pakistan is going wild over this blockbuster Turkish drama," The Economic Times, 23 May 2020)

First, Pakistanis are convinced that the series shows genuine Islamic history. Mehmet Bozdag, producer and writer of the series, agrees there is hardly any information available about the depicted era and that most sources are contradictory. The faked history flames "revivalist dreams, creates false hopes" and suggests bloody fighting is the way forward. 

Second, the series which is essentially a power-struggle within a tribal society is packed with blood, murder, conquest, and tribal intrigues, beautifully wrapped in devout religious fervor. Glorifying the sword may inspire Islamist radical terrorist organizations like the Islamic State. Also, Ertugal fuels the delusion that the way forward is to go back to the early ages of Islam. An ideology of such fundamentalist organisations.

Third, the unknown purpose of the "propagandistic and ideologically motivated" series. If it sought to counter Islamophobia and project Islam as a peaceful religion, the result has been the opposite. Numerous beheadings by the hero, Ertugal, are glorified throughout the series. The more realistic goal seems to be to ignite Turkish nostalgia for a forgotten empire. 

Fourth, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan and his government are trying to promote this series as their support to Islam and use this as a means of soft power; problematic as Ertugal celebrates Turkish imperialism. This has garnered criticism from Sunni bastions such as Saudi Arabia and UAE, who have banned the series decrying it an "insidious attempt to re-impose Turkish tutelage" over formerly Ottoman-ruled Arab nations. According to the article, Saudi is presently funding a counter series "Malik-e-Nar".

Fifth, Pakistan's and Imran Khan's lauding of invaders; primarily the Turkish and post-eighth century invasions (Islamic). It is absurd for a Prime Minister to hail imperial rule over his country. ("Turks ruled India, Pakistanis amused at PM Imran Khan's history," GLIBS, 16 February 2020)

Hoodbhoy emphasizes that ancient foreign invasions must be investigated and absorbed as facts of history without condemnation or glorification. Pakistaniyat (a strong inclusive, pluralistic national identity) must birth from Pakistan; not Saudi and not Turkey, Pervez concludes.


Image Source: Dawn

In Brief

A new trouble in South Waziristan, as a tribal jirga plans to raise a jirga to demolish the house of an ANP leader
The Ahmadzai Wazir tribe, one of the leading tribes within Waziristan convened a jirga again in Wana. They have decided to proceed with an earlier decision to demolish the house of Ayaz Wazir, a leader belonging to the Awami National Party (ANP) by raising a 1200 strong tribal Laskar to do the job. ("Ahmadzai Wazir tribe convenes jirga to raise Lashkar," Dawn, 6 June 2020). Earlier, the ANP has mentioned that the party would lodge an FIR against the tribal elders for “giving responsibility to maintain peace” to the local Taliban committee in South Waziristan tribal district. ("ANP plans legal action against tribal elders of South Waziristan," Dawn, 5 June 2020)

Pakistan's unabated population will explode soon
The opinion article on The News International addresses the issue of population explosion in the country and the lack of attention thrown by the federal leadership. It identifies that Pakistan has the lowest CPR of 34 per cent compared to the neighbouring countries like India and Iran due to poor service delivery. It also indicates that women rarely have the right to decide on birth control and often face critical conditions due to illegal and unsafe abortions, as Pakistan does not legally accept abortions. The opinion demands a government to respond to the unabated population growth in Pakistan that would affect a country's growth in all the ways. ("Addressing the population explosion – Part II," The News International, 6 June 2020)

The state of Workers in Pakistan steel mills under threat
The Government has decided to remove 9,350 employees from its steel mill. The article in dawn gives two reasons behind the act. Firstly, it blames poor management and secondly, it claims that the people appointed in the top post were less experienced which has caused damage to the mill more than over-staffing. The Government has responded that the decision is taken only as a step to refurbish the mill. The editorial ends with the question "What kind of restructuring plan calls for mass layoffs unless investors are more interested in the enterprise's assets than in resurrecting it?" ("PSM workers' sacking," Dawn, 6 June 2020)

Pakistan hospitals go online 
The National Coordination and Operation Centre brought 15,450 hospitals online, which has recorded 5,000 new positive cases in 24 hours. It also witnessed the highest single-day death toll crossing 100 mark in Pakistan taking total fatal cases to 1,935. NCOC has launched an app to provide information on the availability of ventilators hospital facilities to the public. ("Record number of COVID 19 cases, deaths in 24 hours," Dawn, 6 June 2020)

Imposing another lockdown, not an option: PM Imran Khan
At a media briefing, PM Imran Khan rejected the option of imposing another lockdown stating that the country could not afford another lockdown. Further, supporting his decision, he stated that nothing positive has come out of these lockdowns, adding that they have only created havoc in the whole world, leaving many countries in debt. He urged people to follow the Government's SOPs that have been out in place for curbing the spread of the virus. ("PM rejects option of imposing another lockdown," Dawn, 6 June 2020)

Pakistan among top borrowers of the ADB
Pakistan is one of the top three borrowers from the Asian Development Bank in the last year with an outstanding loan exceeding 12 billion dollars. A bank's report shows that India, China, and Pakistan as the largest borrowers from ADB accounting for 43 per cent of the portfolio in 2019. The sum of disbursed and outstanding loan balances presents a value that equates to 11 per cent of total exposure in the year 2019. ("Pakistan tops ADB borrowers with $12bln outstanding in 2019," The News International, 6 June 2020)

Pakistan signs 300-million-dollar loan agreement for developing medical infrastructure
Pakistan signs a 300-million-dollar loan agreement with Asian Development bank to aid and strengthen public health responses and poor segments of the society which is largely affected due to coronavirus pandemic. The ADB funding will be used to assist the social protection program, cash transferring to the poor people, and to develop the medical infrastructure in Pakistan. ("Pakistan, ADB sign $300m loan agreement," The News International, 6 June 2020)

Pandemic is set to have a spillover impact in the next fiscal year 
A meeting was convened to assess the economic situation in the post-COVID-19 situation. The Planning Commission predicted a 2.3 per cent of growth rate, but the ministry of finance along with the State Bank of Pakistan and Asian development has denied it. They projected a 1.9 per cent GDP with a reduction from 44 trillion rupees to 41.5 trillion rupees. (Khaleeq Kiani, "Pakistan has suffered Rs2.5tr loss because of Covid-19," Dawn, 6 June 2020)


"What these countries had gained from strict lockdown? Their people lost jobs, poverty increased while cases of coronavirus continued to increase there...We were already facing financial crunch due to huge burden of debts taken by the previous regime and since we came to power we have retired Rs5000 billion as interest on foreign loans"

- Imran Khan 
on the decision not to impose another lockdown


In Focus and In Brief sections are prepared by Lakshmi V Menon, Abigail Miriam Fernandez, A Padmashree and P Harini Sha.


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