Faisalabad (AsiaNews) - "I still need the support and prayers of the whole country, to work harder for minorities," said Khalil Tahir Sindhu, Punjab's minister for Human Rights and Minorities Affairs Punjab. "This work is not all done. We shall create a cell that will follow the implementation of 5 per cent quota. My support for this is unwavering."
Such a commitment will be especially important to the province's quota system, whose non-implementation has deprived non-Muslims of many job opportunities in government in the past.
In light of new regulations, "This year 996 judges are going to be recruited, hopefully 35 of them will be Christians," the minister said.
For many years, 5 per cent of public sector jobs in Punjab has been reserved for minorities. However, the rule has not been properly enforced. This is especially true in cases where qualified minority candidates have been unavailable.
Now, thanks to Sandhu's personal commitment, vacancies in minority quotas will not be assigned to majority candidates even when suitable minority candidates are not available.
This represents a fundamental change for the human rights organisations, activists and Catholic Church leaders who took part in the conference organised by National Minorities Alliance Pakistan (NMAP) in Faisalabad,.
"The joint efforts of religious and political leaders always bring about positive change in society," said Mgr Joseph Arshad, bishop of Faisalabad, when he spoke during the meeting.
In congratulating Minister Khalil Tahir Sindhu, the prelate said that it was necessary "to let the voice of marginalised communities be heard."
"The Diocese of Faisalabad has proclaimed 2015 the Year of Education," he noted. "We are working very hard to promote education, as the only resource to cope with all issues."
Romana Bashir, a Pakistani Christian activist, is also impressed "by Khalil Tahir's commitment". He is someone who is "close to the feelings and sensibilities of Christians."
Today, he added, the minister "laid solid foundations for peace in the country, ensuring the allocation of a 5 per cent quota to minorities. Now it is time to deal with other challenges."
Father Iftikhar Moon, priest at Holy Rosary parish in Warispura, is proud of what the provincial minister did. "My prayers are always in favour of marginalised communities and all the activists fighting for the rights" of the weakest.
NMAP president Robin Daniel agrees. "If the masses are denied social benefits, they will be more and more victims of the economic crisis."