Lahore (AsiaNews) - Pakistani Christian leaders and activists have launched a campaign of protest against the authorities in the province of Punjab for a recruitment ad that does not fully meet the 5 per cent quota requirement for non-Muslims.
The ad clearly indicates that only minority non-Muslims would be considered for certain BS-1 level positions, like that of sanitary worker. Other, better-paid BS-1 level positions, such as security guard, house cleaner or ward boy do not indicate any religious preference.
For years, Pakistan has had a 5 per cent quota system for religious minorities. However, the legislation has been inconsistently enforced. Often, when suitable candidates were not available, positions were left vacant.
Last March, after years of foot-dragging, Punjab’s Minister for Human Rights and Minorities Khalil Tahir Sindhu, was able to change things.
In Pakistan, Muslims are the overwhelming majority with 97 per cent of the population, largely Sunni, and often with radical fundamentalist views. Minorities are about 3 per cent.
Discrimination based on gender, religion and ethnicity is widespread.
Despite their small numbers, non-Muslims (including Christians) have contributed significantly to the nation in various areas of public and private life: education, healthcare, national defence, human rights, cultural industries as well as other sectors of great importance.
However, the latest job offers by the Institute of Cardiology of Punjab is highly discriminatory with respect to employment, including for low-paying menial jobs.
This comes at a time when local authorities try to meet the sustainable developmental goal for 2030 set by the United Nations Development Programme, especially points 8 and 10, whereby every individual has a right to decent work, without discrimination and inequality.
Speaking on the matter, the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) of the Catholic Church of Pakistan issued a statement calling for a radical change to ensure the 5 per cent quota for minorities, including in the latest job ad.
Christian activists are also demanding an official apology from those responsible for the ad as well as action by Punjab’s chief minister to clarify the situation, end discrimination and ensure equal rights for all.
Speaking to AsiaNews, Naseem Anthony, programme director for the Association of Women for Awareness and Motivation (AWAM), points the finger at the "weak implementation" of minority quotas, partly due to lack of will by the government and public administrations.
He confirms that it is "common practice" to reserve positions for menial jobs like janitors, but the principle is not taken into consideration as we move up the professional ladder.
In view of this, it is necessary “to create equal space and opportunities for religious minorities,” he added.