April 25, 2019


Forced Conversions

According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), every year 1,000 Sindhi girls between the age of 12 and 28 from religious minorities in Sindh are forcibly married and converted to Islam. Every month, between 40 to 60 girls are taken from Sindh, averaging almost 2 Sindhi girls being abducted and forcibly married every single day. The HRCP also reports that between January 1st, 2004 and May 17th, 2018 there were 7,430 cases of such abductions in Sindh, however it is believed the number could be much higher.

These girls do not usually speak out against their captors as they are often coerced into silence through threats of violence against either themselves or their families. According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, families who try to report their daughters as missing are often ignored by the police and their First Information Report (FIR) is never submitted. This is especially important because without a FIR there is not record of the crime and no way to persecute those who have committed it. When cases do make it to court they often rule in favor of the ‘husband’.

In the past there have been bills proposed in order to protect these girls (Sindh Criminal Law) but they have either failed to pass or are ignored by the courts.

Recent Cases:

Enforced Disappearances

The UN Human Rights Committee defines an enforced disappearance as “an arrest or detention by state officials followed by a refusal to acknowledge the person’s fate or whereabouts”.  The biggest victims of enforced disappearances include activists, writers, teachers, students and more. Enforced disappearances is a mechanism used by the Pakistani government to silence anyone who speaks out against the government.

According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP)’s November 2018 update for the EU, since the creation of Pakistan’s Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances (COIED) in 2011 it has received a total of 5,290 cases. Of these, the COIED currently has 2,178 cases that are still unresolved. However, it is likely that this number is actually much higher. When people report these missing persons cases they become a target themselves, which often deters them from speaking out.

Recent Cases:

Extrajudicial Killings

Extrajudicial killings are defined by a person being killed by a government or governmental authorities without judicial process. They are also known as fake encounter killings. 

Extrajudicial killings occur frequently in the Sindh Province of Pakistan. According to The News International, from January 2014 to May 2018 3,345 people were killed in Pakistan as a result of police encounters based on media reports of extrajudicial killings. The province with the most killings reported was Sindh, with 1,592 people killed. While this number is devastatingly large, the correct number is estimated to be much higher, as in 2016 it was found that only 28% of known extrajudicial killings of Sindhis from that year were reported in the media. This is likely because of an ‘invisible hand’ concealing the killing of Sindhis.

When an extrajudicial killing happens the case is often kept out of court by postponing. With this, many cases are often never investigated and never receive a trial date to begin with.

Public Health

HIV Crisis

Since the beginning of 2019, Sindh has experienced a massive HIV outbreak Around 800 cases of HIV have been diagnosed in the province. More than 80% of affected are children under 15, with some being as young as 18 months old.

The initial outbreaks were traced back to the poor practices of pediatrician Muzaffar Ghanghro, who reportedly used the same IV drip equipment on around fifty children. Ghanghro’s poor practices have revealed a medical crisis that includes unqualified doctors, unsanitary lab practices, and reused needles. As a response to this outbreak the Sindh AIDS Control Program (SACP) has expanded HIV testing hubs and facilities, closed 900 unlicensed blood banks, and established a new antiretroviral treatment clinic in Larkana. However, much more action is needed to successfully resolve the issue.

A doctor for the International Medical Corps examines a young boy at a mobile health clinic


Water Crisis

Pakistan, and Sindh specifically, is incredibly short on water, both in quality and in quantity. Sindh has bore the brunt of the effects due to governmental corruption, greed, and its environmental situation. Pakistan is far from on track to reach the Sustainable Development goal placed on them to provide clean, affordable drinking water to all by 2030.

The per capita availability of water is hovering just over the scarcity threshold of 1,000 cubic meters of clean water per person. Cities are also receiving less water than what their population warrants. For example, Karachi, a major city in Sindh, receives only 55% of the water that it requires. Across the country, water levels in dams on the Indus River range from unsatisfactory to extremely critical. 

While the Water and Sanitation Agency has focused on increasing the quantity of available water, they have largely ignored the need for safe, clean water. Currently, in Sindh, only 20% of people have access to clean, safe drinking water.

Children journey to collect water in Khado Muhummad Jut, Sindh (CNW Group/HSBC Bank Canada)