ASIA/PAKISTAN - Discrimination against religious minorities is "institutionalized"

Friday, 6 October 2017 religious minorities   human rights  

Lahore (Agenzia Fides) - The government of the Pakistani region of Sindh, in the south of Pakistan, issued a public competition announcement at the end of September for some jobs in the police administration. Among the positions: person in charge of maintenance, car mechanic, laborer and also "cleaner". For this latter occupation it is specified: "For non-Muslims only". This is an institutionalized religious discrimination.
"This wording is a flagrant violation of Article 26 of the Constitution of Pakistan, which, among the fundamental rights, explicitly speaks of 'non-discrimination' regarding the access to public places, towards all citizens", said to Fides Anjum James Paul, Pakistani Catholic professor and president of the "Pakistan Minorities Teachers' Association" (PMTA). Anjum James Paul was a schoolmate of Shahbaz Bhatti, the Catholic minister who was killed, and shared his commitment to human rights and the promotion of religious minorities in the country. Today he says to Fides: "It is a discrimination carried out by the state. It is a shameful treatment reserved to religious minorities. According to the Constitution, all citizens have equal rights and duties. It is time to put an end to this discriminatory practice not only in social relations but also in state institutions and structures. The regional government of Sindh should also follow the disposition to reserve religious minorities 5% of the state seats available, in every order and degree, but it does not".
The theme of discrimination against religious minorities in Pakistan cyclically comes back in public debate on the occasion of the "National Day of Minorities", which is celebrated in the nation every August 9. "Non-Muslim Pakistani citizens are forced to accept more humble jobs, which are reserved for them, such as cleaners, stretcher-bearers, domestic workers, street cleaners", said Samson Salamat of the Rwadari Tehreek organization.
Religious minorities in Pakistan recall the well-known speech of Ali Jinnah, founder of Pakistan, who on August 11, 1947 in the constituent assembly declared: "We are all citizens of the same State. We should keep this principle before us as our ideal. So one will discover that over the years Hindus will cease to be Hindu and Muslims will cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because this is the personal faith of every individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State".
Since the birth of Pakistan, in 1947, religious minorities were conceived as "an integral part of the nation" by Ali Jinnah, to the point that their presence is also symbolically on the national flag, where the green part represents the Muslim majority, while the white part indicates non-Muslim minorities.
Today, civil society forums call on the government for constitutional reforms in order to put an end to discrimination and prejudice, ensuring effective political participation and representation to religious minorities.
Pakistan is characterized by religious, ethnic and linguistic pluralism: Muslims are over 90% of 180 million people, but there are Ahmadis, Christians, Baha'is, Buddhists, Hindus, Jainists, Jews, Parsites and Sikhs. In general, minorities account for about 8% of the population. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 6/10/2017)


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