A 14-year-old Hindu girl has been kidnapped from Pakistan's Sindh province, triggering widespread concern among the minority community members and reports of their apparent exodus.
The teenage girl, Manisha Kumari, was kidnapped from Jacobabad in Sindh, which has a sizeable Hindu population, on Tuesday, Pakistan Hindu Council president Jethanand Doonger Mal Kohistani said on Thursday.
"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 told PTI on phone.
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.
Though TV news channels claimed several Hindu families from Jacobabad had decided to migrate to India because of forced conversions, extortion and kidnapping, Kohistani and Human Rights Commission of Pakistan activist Amarnath Motumal said there was no evidence to substantiate these reports.
Babu Mahesh Lakhani, the head of a Hindu panchayat, had claimed several Hindu families had decided to migrate to India and others were planning to follow them as they felt insecure in Pakistan.
Some Hindu leaders even claimed 60 families had left for India and more families would cross via the Wagah border this week.
However, sources in the Indian high commission in Islamabad said there were no reports of mass movements of Hindu families via Wagah.
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 added that 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.
Rights activist 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.
Officials said a group of Hindu families from Sindh and Balochistan is set to travel to India for a pilgrimage to Haridwar on 30 days' visas. Some sections of the media wrongly projected it as an exodus, they 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.