In his medical entrance exam, Kamran Safdar was passed over by Qurʼān memorisers who get a higher score by regulation. Under this system, Christians are the most discriminated group. Kamran wants religious minorities to get the same treatment as Muslims.
Lahore (AsiaNews) – Christians and members of other Pakistani minorities are victims of discrimination when it comes to university education, especially in medicine and engineering. Kamran Safdar is one of them.
After completing high school with a high score (89.44/100), the Christian student was unable to fulfil his dream of becoming a doctor because Ḥāfiẓ-e-Qurʼān, Qurʼān memorisers, took precedence in the university admission process. By regulation, the latter get the maximum score regardless of their actual performance.
Kamran has from humble background. He lives in the Sargodha district (Punjab), and works in a pharmacy. His father sells fruit, whilst his mother is a cleaner in a hospital.
His brothers dropped out of school to work to help him fulfil his dream. But together they did not earn enough to pay the tuition at a private university, as well as the fee for the preparation course for the medical entrance exam, which costs 40,000 rupees (US0).
Nevertheless, Kamran was able to take the admission exam in 2018 and 2019 at a public university, but on both occasion Qurʼān memorisers beat him to it.
The young Christian man feels discriminated because he has a deep knowledge of his own faith, but only Muslims are given extra points for knowing their religion.
The regulation dates back to 1987, at the time of General Zia-ul-Haq's regime. Cameron Younis, a theologian and researcher at Hope University in Liverpool, notes that the problem of the extra points for Ḥāfiẓ-e-Qurʼān students has never been addressed by politicians or the courts.
Christians are “the most marginalised and deprived minor community in Pakistan,” Younis told AsiaNews. “To end this discrimination, deserving students should raise their voices; otherwise this injustice will continue.”
For Peter Jacob, president of the Centre for Social Justice, a solid religious background is a good thing, but extra points should be given to all students, irrespective of religion.
Last month the Punjab Provincial Assembly passed a law that guarantees religious minorities 2 per cent of the places in local universities; however, many non-Muslim students are still left out.
More importantly, despite the improvement, the Christian community’s demand for access to university based on merit has not been met.