Pakistan’s Minorities, its Unequal Citizens

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Pakistan, founded to protect the Muslims of British India, has over the decades become a country where no religious, or ethnic, minorities are safe. In 1947, Pakistan’s founders pledged to protect its minorities and treat them on a par with the rest of its citizenry, a pledge that successive generations failed to live up to.

A recent report by National Commission for Human Rights, the Pakistani state’s attitude towards non-Muslims falls squarely in the category of religious discrimination to the extent of considering them as being less than human. According to the report, “nearly half the posts reserved for religious minorities in government jobs are vacant and — to add insult to injury — 80pc of the non-Muslims who have been appointed under the 5pc quota for them are working in low-paid sanitation jobs.”

As per the report titled Unequal Citizens: Ending Systemic Discrimination Against Minorities, most non-Muslims who were in government jobs worked in garbage disposal and sewerage management. Further these jobs “include hazardous working conditions, inadequate safety gear and equipment, lack of job security and low compensation to those injured or the families of those who die in the course of their work.”

According to the NCHR, “between 2011 and 2021, more than 65pc of sanitary workers who died while unclogging gutters belonged to minority communities. Repeatedly, concerned citizens have pointed out that notices advertising government posts for sanitation workers display blatant faith-based discrimination by clearly stating that only non-Muslims need apply — as though these tasks essential for keeping our environs clean and disease-free are beneath Muslims.”

As an editorial in Dawn noted, “In September last year, the Supreme Court had asked the government why 30,000 jobs set aside for non-Muslims were still vacant. And yet, this institutionalized discrimination persists in our society, furthering a majoritarian mindset that then becomes a breeding ground for other problems.”

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Author: Ahsan Kureshi