Faisalabad: Church and civil society groups stage protest for minority quota
by Shafique Khokhar
In its recent recruitment drive, police fails to meet the 5 per cent quota for non-Muslims as required by the law and the constitution. Out of 730 positions, only four go to minorities. Weeks of protest have led to an increase to 11, still far below the 41 required. For activists, this is "economic murder" for minorities.

Faisalabad (AsiaNews) - Pakistan's Catholic Church has joined the protest launched last month by activists and civil society groups in favour of the country's religious minorities after the authorities failed to guarantee them their 5 per cent quotas in public jobs.

"This is economic murder," said Lala Robin Daniel, president of the National Minority Alliance of Pakistan (NMAP), one of the promoters of the initiative, "and we are not willing to tolerate it".

Catholic leaders in Faisalabad (Punjab) have also come out in support of the protest. Fr Iftikhar Moon spoke at a meeting yesterday at Holy Rosary Parish in Warispura.

"We are fighting alongside the NMAP for the protection of minority rights," the priest said. "We will make our voice heard to the appropriate authorities. We appeal to Prime Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif, to take action against this act of discrimination. "

The decision by the authorities not to respect the 5 per cent minority quota for Faisalabad police sparked the protest.

From the city, protest is now spreading across the province of Punjab, with representatives of minorities filing a complaint with the Lahore High Court.

For Lala Robin Daniel, this is a clear case of discrimination and a "violation of the law and the (1973) Constitution of Pakistan". 

In Faisalabad, there were 730 job openings in the local police force in the years 2013-14. The law required that 37 be reserved for minorities and four for women.  

However, out of 153 applications, only 37 were followed with interviews and of these, only four were accepted. For activists, this is confirmation that minority rights are being "ignored and denied in a systematic manner". 

As a result of the situation, representatives of religious minorities began to protest and demonstrate (pictured) last month.

NMAP members led the initiative, joined by other local activists and international organisations, including women's movements.

On 12 May, a press conference was held to report the facts and ask for the law to be enforced. On 25 May, in front of the regional headquarters of Faisalabad police, activists staged a protest, which attracted hundreds of people, including leading members of the local Christian community.

The initiative launched by Christians and civil society groups has had some results with the number of positions reserved for minorities increased from four to 11; however, in order to comply with the law, 30 more should be added and protest leaders are not planning to stop until their demands are met.

The Church in Faisalabad has joined the fight for minority rights in Punjab and across Pakistan. Appealing to local officials, Fr Moon called for "concrete steps" to ensure "41 positions to minorities."

Amina Zaman, director of Agency for Sustainable Development (ASDP), agrees. For her, failure to reserve 5 per cent of positions is "pathetic". The whole thing is "shameful".

With more than 180 million people (97 per cent Islam), Pakistan is the sixth most populous country in the world, the second largest Muslim nation after Indonesia.

Almost 80 per cent are Sunni Muslim, 20 per cent Shias with smaller numbers of Hindus (1.85 per cent), Christians (1.6 per cent) and Sikhs (0.04 per cent).