01/10/2024, 14.59
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More economic violence against Faisalabad’s Christian street sweepers

by Shafique Khokhar

After Christian homes and churches were torched last summer on the pretext of blasphemy, street sweepers, who are mostly Christian, were not paid for two months before Christmas. “During the year, we lack proper equipment and tools for the job and because of this we often get sick,” street sweeper Khurram Masih told AsiaNews. Before Christian holy days, “we never get paid on time,” forcing them “to take out loans”.

Faisalabad (AsiaNews) – Christians in Faisalabad’s Jaranwala neighbourhood continue to endure discrimination and abuse. The latest case is an "old story".

Christians tend to be relegated to work as street sweepers, one of the worst jobs in the country. In Faisalabad, they have not been paid for months.

As their union notes, this is not the first time; despite complaining about such injustice, sweepers have not received their wages in time several times in the past eight years.

Waste collection is one of the few public sector jobs that Christians can get, with the quota for non-Muslims at only 5 per cent. In Faisalabad, some 4,600 street sweepers are employed, 3,500 Christian.

It is noteworthy that 21 Christian places of worship and homes were devastated by a mob in Faisalabad district last August, after Islamic extremists incited people against a man accused of writing outrageous remarks against the Qurʾān even though he was actually illiterate. Hundreds of people were forced to flee, with many spending Christmas away from home.

With this background, street sweepers began to protest and organise sit-ins in December to demand their unpaid wages, under the leadership of Robin Daniel, a well-known human rights activist, and Abrar Sahotra, president of the labour union representing the workers at the Faisalabad Waste Management Company.

Municipal authorities had promised that the workers would receive their salaries by 15 December, but the money only arrived yesterday, 9 January 2024.

“During the year, we lack proper equipment and tools for the job and because of this we often get sick. We clean up the whole city and yet we're not treated well,” lamented Khurram Masih, a street sweeper, who spoke to AsiaNews.

“At Christmas and Easter, we never get paid on time,” he added. “We need to take out loans to buy new clothes and food for our families so that our children can celebrate with happiness and joy.

"Sanitation workers are considered third-class citizens,” noted union president Sahotra. “They received their salary only on 9 January, which will be used to pay off loans taken out with different people and shops during the Christmas and New Year holidays. Withholding the wages of these workers is illegal and immoral.”

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