ASIA/PAKISTAN - Christians wanted to carry out the most humble jobs: the Punjab government puts an end to this practice

Tuesday, 31 May 2022 human rights   religious minorities  

Lahore (Agenzia Fides) - "We welcome the notification from the government of the province of Punjab, issued last week, which states that all government offices will no longer have to indicate, in any announcement or public notice, religious faith or the specific request of Christians for jobs such as ecological workers or street cleaners. Finally, after more than 30 years of effort, we have achieved a result. This practice is a flagrant violation of the fundamental human rights of religious minorities living in Pakistan: in the notices issued by government institutions, in fact, the specific search for citizens of Christian faith or other non-Muslim religious minorities is indicated, with regard to the most menial tasks and jobs, such as cleaning streets or sewers": this is what Catholic leader Peter Jacob, a well-known promoter of human rights in Pakistan, told Fides. Peter Jacob, president of the "Center for Social Justice", a non-governmental organization active in civil society, says: "We ask the government to issue another notification adding clear sanctions for those who publish job advertisements reserved for the Muslims. As Christians, we raise our voice for all humanity, not just Christians: that is why the government notification must mention not only Christians, but also the rights of other religious minorities. Reference to professed faith should never be an indicated prerequisite in the job search". Last week, the Punjab Department of General Services and Administration, following a new petition from the National Human Rights Commission (NCHR), recognized that in public job advertisements the mention of the "Christian religion" of candidates should not be mentioned. This discriminatory and humiliating attitude has been widely criticized by Pakistani civil society organizations in the past. The notification states that these advertisements violate Article 27 (paragraph 1) of the Pakistani Constitution and Articles 1 to 7 of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, ratified by the Government of Pakistan. The notice, issued with the approval of the chief minister of the Punjab province, has been sent to all administrative departments as an "absolute priority", ordering them to nullify any provision that promotes such discrimination. Aqsa Kanwal, a Christian woman active in the defense of human and minority rights, tells Agenzia Fides: "It was an injury and a serious discrimination to read job advertisements promoted by public bodies in which humiliating jobs were indicated reserved for people from religious minorities. We welcome this notification and hope that all discriminatory state practices will be eliminated". Fr. Bonnie Mendes, an elderly Pakistani Catholic priest, points out in a message sent to Agenzia Fides: "This notification is a positive step, there should be severe sanctions if government officials do not respect it". In Pakistan's major provinces, such as Punjab and Sindh, civil society and Christian organizations have long campaigned to suppress what is read in public job advertisements for ecological operators and for street and sewer cleaning jobs, where often there is the requirement: “reserved for non-Muslims”. The campaign calls for action to permanently end these discriminatory advertisements, published by state agencies, which it claims "disgrace members of religious minorities and foster a culture of contempt for non-Muslims." In Pakistan, about 95% of the workers who clean and sanitize the streets, hospitals, schools and public institutions and sewers belong to religious minorities. The fact that these workers belong to religious minorities is linked to the ancient conception of caste, still present in the societies of the Indian subcontinent, which reserves the lowest castes for the most menial jobs. These are jobs that Muslims reject. "This is a double standard", wrote the Justice and Peace Commission of the Catholic Bishops of Pakistan in the past, denouncing "the discriminatory treatment of religious minorities". (AG/PA) (Agenzia Fides, 31/5/2022)