New Delhi: Ahead of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s meeting with US President Donald Trump on Monday, a group of influential US Congressmen and women have urged Trump to raise the issue of alleged human rights violations, including enforced disappearances and forced conversions of minorities in Sindh province, during talks.
According to the letter signed by Democrat Bradley James Sherman and nine others, Pakistan has been receiving US aid and assistance totalling some $30 billion since 2001 to improve social and economic conditions, besides promoting good governance. But this has not happened.
“As you seek to change Pakistani behavior on issues like terrorism, it is essential that you also push the Pakistani government to improve the lives of its citizens. For this reason, we urge you to bring up these issues in your conversation with Prime Minister Khan," the letter said.
Sindh province, in southeast Pakistan, was most affected by “numerous economic and social injustices, often at the hands of the Pakistani government," the letter said.
One example was a recent outbreak of HIV earlier this year, which the letter blamed on the usage of already used syringes and needles beside unsafe blood transfusions. It noted that this was not the first such instance, recalling another outbreak that took place under similar conditions in 2016. “This is simply unacceptable, especially when the US has given Pakistan $283 million in health assistance since 2001," it said.
“Other injustices in Sindh Province are deliberately carried out by the Pakistani state and its supporters. This is the case with forced conversions, where young Hindu and Christian girls are kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam," the letter said.
“Often, they are then married off to men decades their senior. According to an independent Pakistani watchdog group, there were around 1,000 cases of forced conversions in Sindh Province in 2018 alone. The actual number is certainly higher. Shockingly, there are no laws in Sindh banning forced conversions. There is a law preventing children from being married without parental permission, but this is largely ignored in cases of forced conversions," according to the letter.
“The Pakistani government also terrorises Sindh Province through enforced disappearances. The United Nations Human Rights Committee defines enforced disappearances as an arrest or detention by state officials followed by a refusal to acknowledge the person’s fate or whereabouts. Hundreds of people in Sindh have disappeared this way, including writers, students, activists, and politicians who campaign for human rights. Some of these individuals have ended up dead, and their families have never received the justice they deserve."
“These are just some of the widespread human rights abuses in Sindh Province."
Khan arrived in Washington late Saturday and is set to meet Trump at the White House on Monday. Trump is to have talks that will extend over lunch with Khan with the rebooting of ties between the US and Pakistan topping the agenda.
The situation in Afghanistan and ties with India are also expected to be part of the talks.