ISLAMABAD: Over 50 Hindus have been kidnapped in Pakistan's restive Balochistan province over the past four years, forcing members of the minority community to migrate to other parts of the country.
Basant Lal Gulshan, the Human Rights and Minority Affairs Minister for Balochistan, said over 50 members of the Hindu community were abducted across the province in four years.
"Among those are two assistants from my own pharmacy, abducted two days ago," he said.
"While Musharraf was in power for nine years, there were only seven instances of kidnapping," Gulshan told The Express Tribune. The alarming increase in kidnapping of Hindus was confirmed by Balochistan Chief Secretary Ahmed Bakhsh Lehri.
Of a total of 72 people kidnapped in the past few months, 24 were Hindus, he said.
Twenty-one people had either been released or recovered through the efforts of the Hindus themselves, Lehri said.
Balochistan Home Secretary Naseebullah Bazai too said incidents of kidnapping for ransom and other heinous crimes have increased in the province.
The rise in kidnappings has forced Hindus to migrate from Balochistan to other parts of the country, Bazai told the media yesterday. Balochistan and Sindh provinces have sizeable Hindu populations.
Over the past few years, dozens of Hindus, most of them petty traders, have been kidnapped for ransom in Balochistan. Several cases of forced conversion of Hindus have been reported from Sindh.
Human Rights Minister Gulshan said Hindus were targeted because the community is perceived to be "financially well off but weak". The Hindus are mostly traders and businessmen, and the community comprises two-thirds of Balochistan minority population of 300,000, he said.