World Watch Monitor
Karachi (Agenzia Fides) – A Christian, Shehzad Mansha Masih was a resident in Korangi, Karachi. Like so many Pakistani Christians, he worked for the sewage line but was not provided any security measure for his safety as usual. During the cleaning of a well some toxic gas filled the line therefore Shehzad became unconscious after inhaling poisonous gas and died. Due to gas nobody could take Shehzad out of the sewage line and only after several minutes the boy was recovered and taken to the hospital, where he died.
Cleaners of public sewers such as Shehzad are often exposed to mephitic gases. Shehzad is not the first victim: such incidents continuously have been happening but relevant departments do not even bother to provide precautionary measures for saving the lives of workers, almost all Christians. In June 2017, thirty-year-old Christian Irfan Masih, also a public worker, inhaled toxic gases in the city of Umerkot in Sindh, and died in hospital because a Muslim doctor refused to treat him. In July 2017, other three Christian workers died in Lahore for breathing toxic fumes while they were cleaning up an obstructed sewer in a suburb of the city. They too had no adequate equipment and the operations did not meet any safety standards.
Workers are often ill-equipped and remain exposed to potentially lethal conditions. 90% of the workers involved in cleaning public places in Pakistan, including sewers, are Christians. These are jobs that Muslims refuse to do. It is a "double standard", says the "Justice and Peace" Commission of the Pakistani Bishops and "a discriminatory treatment reserved for religious minorities".
"For non-Muslims, life in Pakistan is a further humiliation. They are not just second-class citizens for the simple fact that they are not Muslims - although the founder of the nation Ali Jinnah would never have shared this approach - but also because a large part of them belong to the lower castes, in a society where caste discrimination is still present", explains Yaqoob Khan Bangash, a Muslim professor at the University of Lahore, to Agenzia Fides.
The "Justice and Peace" Commission of the Conference of Major Superiors of Pakistan, in Multan, provides free legal assistance to hundreds of Christian workers involved in the cleaning service and contributed to founding associations to protect their rights. Waste management companies or cleaners of public places (municipal or provincial) often hire them with daily wages, denying them the rights of a permanent contract. Wages are usually delayed. The law on social security would guarantee compensation for those who die "for service reasons", but this law is often not respected in cases of Christian victims.
The practice of reserving these jobs for non-Muslims is also promoted publicly in public employment announcements (see Fides 6/10/2017). Two NGOs, the "Human Rights Commission of Pakistan" (HRCP) and the "Child and Labor rights welfare organization" (CLWO) are carrying out a specific research on the discrimination of religious minorities in public workplaces in Pakistan (see Fides 18/10/2017).(PA) (Agenzia Fides, 22/1/2018)