Teenage Hindu Girl Killed in Pakistan After Resisting Forced Marriage, Conversion to Islam

A teenage Hindu girl was killed last week in Pakistan's southeastern Sindh province after she resisted abduction for alleged forced marriage and conversion, prompting fear among the country's minority community.

The girl, identified as 18-year-old Pooja Kumari, was said to have been shot in Rohi, Sukkur after she resisted abduction by her attackers.

Police Showed 'No Interest' Initially, Arrested Suspects After Outrage on Social Media

The victim's uncle said she was often harassed by Wahid Bux Lashari, a member of the powerful Lashari tribe. Lashari, 24, had threatened Kumari with forced marriage earlier this month.

Her family said they approached the local police who "showed no interest" in helping the family against the powerful landowning tribe. A week later on March 21, Lashari showed up again along with two associates and broke into the girl's house. When Kumari resisted abduction, Lashari allegedly fired his gun.

Pooja Kumari and Wahid Lashari
Pooja Kumari and Wahid Lashari Twitter

"They shot her dead on the spot," the uncle told Al Jazeera. "She [Kumari] preferred resistance and death instead of marrying the abductor out of her faith." Police arrested Lashari and the two associates on the night of March 21 after the incident caused outrage on social media.

"Mr Lashari and two others were arrested for their involvement in the murder," local police official Bashir Ahmed told Al Jazeera. "The prime suspect has even confessed to the crime."

Thousands Forced to Convert to Islam in Pakistan Every Year

This is not a stand-alone incident in Pakistan. Human rights activists say that thousands of Christian and Hindu girls are forced to convert to Islam every year in Muslim-majority Pakistan.

"Forced conversions are against the teachings of Islam and we are committed to ensure justice and peaceful environment for minorities. We will take serious action against the culprits and ensure protection to the family of [the] victim girl," Hafiz Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi, special assistant to Prime Minister Imran Khan on religious harmony and Middle East affairs, told Al Jazeera.

According to the 2017 census, Muslims make up 97 percent of Pakistan's population while Hindus are around 2 percent, an overwhelming majority of them – close to 90 percent – residing in Sindh province bordering Hindu-majority neighbour India.

Activists say some victims of forced marriage or conversion are as young as 12. Earlier, the provincial government in Sindh had attempted to outlaw forced conversions and marriages. However, religious protestors contested the bill, stating that girls only convert after falling in love with Muslim men.