When I began to research the ritual journeys to the Hinglaj Devi shrine in Balochistan, I knew little about the small Pakistani Hindu community. During my fieldwork, I had ample opportunities to talk to Pakistani Hindus about their faith and life in the Islamic Republic. In such talks I often heard of incidents in which Hindu girls disappear from their home or workplace and later resurface as converted and married Muslim women. I was told that religious zealots kidnap these girls from their homes and forcefully convert them to Islam.
Now, almost 10 years after I began following these incidents, I am struggling with this explanation. While I believe that some cases of forced conversions, in fact, involve religious zeal, it appears as if religion in many other instances often only surfaces ex post facto.
In other words, many conversions of Hindu women in Pakistan are harnessed as a means to an end and not necessarily the initial objective. This is particularly true for the rural Sindh where I collected most of my case studies.