Islamabad: A 14-year-old Hindu girl has been kidnapped in Pakistan's southern Sindh province, causing widespread concern in the minority community amidst reports of their apparent exodus.
The teenage girl, Manisha Kumari, was kidnapped from Jacobabad, which has a sizeable Hindu community, on August 7, said Pakistan Hindu Council president Jethanand Doonger Mal Kohistani.
"Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah has taken notice of the matter and asked provincial Minority Affairs Minister Mohan Lal to visit Jacobabad to look into the issue," Kohistani said.
The teenage girl Manisha Kumari, was kidnapped from Jacobabad, which has a sizeable Hindu community.
The kidnapping of the girl from Jacobabad and the abduction of 11 Hindu traders from Balochistan and Sindh provinces over the past few months has added to the community's concerns, Kohistani said.
"There is sadness among Hindus as the law and order situation is deteriorating. Even Muslims have been affected by the deteriorating situation, it is not just the Hindus," he said.
News of Manisha's abduction emerged even as TV channels some 250 Hindus from Sindh and Balochistan had decided to migrate to India because of forced conversions, extortion and kidnapping.
The Hindus were travelling to India on 30-day visas for a pilgrimage to Haridwar and Vaishno Devi but many were not expected to return, the channels quoted their sources as saying.
Taking notice of the media reports, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said the 250 Hindus would be stopped from going to India.
He told reporters that they would be allowed to travel only after a probe by the Federal Investigation Agency.
Malik claimed the reports about the migration of the Hindus were part of a "conspiracy to defame Pakistan".
The Indian High Commission should explain why visas were issued to the 250 Hindus, he said.
However, some of the Hindus who reached Lahore this evening told the media that they had no intention of migrating to India.
They dismissed as baseless the reports that they were permanently moving out of Pakistan. Three of them – Ghanshyam Das, Vijay Kumar and Amit Kumar - said they were going on a
"If we were leaving permanently, why aren’t our families and children with us?" said one man.
Pakistan Hindu Council president Kohistani and Human Rights Commission of Pakistan activist Amarnath Motumal said there was no evidence to substantiate reports of a widespread migration of Hindus.
Sources in the Indian High Commission in Islamabad too said some pilgrims were expected to cross via Wagah and there were no reports of the mass movement of Hindu families.
Kohistani acknowledged that Hindus were facing pressure due to the poor law and order situation but said there was no exodus.
"The land of the Indus river is our motherland. Some people may be going to India on a pilgrimage or a private visit," he said.
He said police were not helping Hindus being targeted by criminal elements for extortion and kidnapping.
"Right now, three traders from Balochistan and eight more from Sindh are being held hostage. There are unconfirmed reports that one trader from Khuzdar (in Balochistan) may have been killed by his abductors," he said.
Motumal said he had conducted inquiries and found no proof of an exodus.
"I am not saying that the Hindu community is not being pressured in the interiors of Sindh but the reports that they are migrating to India in droves are not verifiable," he said.
He said he had personally gone looking for people who claimed there was an exodus from Sindh but could not find any proof.
"There might be a few families where one member left for India to settle there and then asked other members to join him. These families are leaving due to existing problems but the numbers are not so high," he said.
Motumal blamed "extremist religious groups" for pressuring members of the Hindu community in Sindh to convert to Islam.
"Businessmen are being targeted for extortion and kidnapping but the situation is such that no one Shias, Sunnis, Hindus, Sindhis is safe," he said.
Reports over the past two years have said that dozens of Hindu families from Balochistan and Sindh had moved to India after the community was targeted by criminals and militants.
Hindus have also been shaken by several high-profile cases of the kidnapping and alleged forced conversion of women.
Indian officials have acknowledged there was a trend of Pakistani Hindus extending their stay in India after entering on a valid visa.