Islamabad, Pakistan – Last week, the killing of a Hindu teenage girl in Pakistan’s southeastern Sindh province after she refused to kidnap her on suspicion of forced marriage and conversion has sparked fears among the country’s minority community.

Pooja Kumari, 18, is described by her family as an energetic girl who is often seen sewing traditional clothes at her home in Rohri town, Sukkur district, about 470 kilometers (292 miles) north of the provincial capital, the port city of Karachi.

Kumari’s uncle Odh, whose name is not used by Al Jazeera due to security concerns, said she was regularly harassed by Wahid Bux Lashari, a member of the powerful Lashari tribe. Rashari, 24, had threatened Kumari with a forced marriage earlier this month.

Her family said they contacted local police and they had “no interest” in helping the family fight against powerful landowner tribes.

A week later, on March 21, Rashari and two accomplices reappeared and broke into the girl’s home. When Kumari refused to kidnap, Rashari allegedly fired.

“They shot her on the spot,” Ord told Al Jazeera. “she [Kumari] Would rather resist and die than marry a kidnapper out of faith. “

Police arrested Lashari and two accomplices on the evening of March 21 after the incident sparked outrage on Pakistani social media.

“Mr Rashari and two others were arrested for their involvement in the murder,” local police officer Bashir Ahmed told Al Jazeera. “The main suspect even confessed to the crime.”

Kumari is one of nearly 1,000 minority girls who are forced to marry or convert to Islam, or both, every year in Muslim-majority Pakistan, rights groups say.

“Forced conversion is against the teachings of Islam and we are committed to ensuring justice and a peaceful environment for minorities. We will take serious action against perpetrators and ensure the protection of victims’ families [the] Victim girls,” Hafez Tahir Mohammad Ashrafi, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s special assistant 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 make up about 2 percent, with the vast majority (almost 90 percent) living in Sindh province, which borders Hindu-majority neighbour India.

Last year, the United States added Pakistan to its list of “countries of special concern” for violations of religious freedom.

Activists say some victims of forced marriages or conversions are as young as 12 years old.

In 2019, Khan’s government ordered an investigation into forced conversions after two Hindu sisters were allegedly kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam – a case that sparked controversy with India.

A Pakistani court later ruled that the sisters converted voluntarily.

Activists say the lack of legislation aimed at guaranteeing minority rights makes things difficult for Hindu and Christian girls.

In October last year, the Ministry of Religious Affairs opposed the proposed law and a parliamentary committee rejected an anti-forced conversion bill, despite protests by minority lawmakers.

In 2016, Sindh passed a law declaring forced conversion a crime punishable by life imprisonment, but the region’s governor refused to approve the legislation.

Meanwhile, minorities in Pakistan have been protesting forced marriages or the conversion of girls belonging to their communities.

“Forced conversions are a very serious problem and have been a chronic problem in the country, but unfortunately, so far, all major political parties have failed to legislate on this important issue,” said Kapil Kapil, an activist for the Hindu community. Dev told Al Jazeera.

“she [Kumari] Had she not resisted kidnapping, she would have been another victim of forced conversion. “

Dev said the government should “take this issue seriously” and introduce a bill as soon as possible to stop “heinous acts, as these events have brought a bad name not only to the country, but to the faith of the majority. negative impact.”

Dev points to a “lack of interest from political parties” and that he succumbs to right-wing groups when state or national assemblies introduce bills to end the practice.

Legal experts also said that there is no existing law to prevent forced conversions in Pakistan.

“Despite the surge in forced conversions, the federal and provincial governments have not shown proper determination to address this serious unconstitutional act. The government has not brought this bill to Parliament despite having a parliamentary majority in the National Assembly, “Lawyer Osama Malik told Al Jazeera.

“Similarly, the Sindh provincial government twice refused to legislate on the matter.”