80pc non-Muslims employed in low-paid jobs: report

ISLAMABAD: Nearly half of the posts reserved for religious minorities in government jobs remain vacant and even with the posts that are filled, 80 per cent of non-Muslims are employed to carry out jobs for which they are paid less.

This has been highlighted in a report compiled by the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) with support from the European Union (EU). The report is called ‘Unequal Citizens: Ending Systemic Discrimination against Minorities’.

It also brings to light hazardous working conditions, insufficient safety gear and equipment, lack of job security and payment of low compensation to the injured and families of those who die while working. Heartbreaking stories of sanitation workers who have faced societal ostracisation, stigma, discrimination and death in deadly manholes have been highlighted.

In order to rectify the situation, the commission has given certain recommendations like use of machines instead of manual labour where there is a danger of death or injury to sanitation workers, and providing them with social security and healthcare.

It also suggests that discrimination against minorities in the employment quota must end, there should be an immediate ban on practice of publishing discriminatory advertisements and ensuring public transparency in the number of minority posts filled across each basic pay scale.

Chief guest at the event, Minister for Human Rights Riaz Hussain Pirzada said discrimination against minorities was one of the foremost human rights issues that needs to be addressed.

“On the basis of the letter sent by NCHR, the Ministry of Human Rights took immediate action and issued a letter to chief secretaries of each province, directing them to ensure that minorities are protected in line with international obligations and constitutional guarantees,” Mr Pirzada announced.

Minister for Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety Shazia Marri stressed sensitisation of relevant government departments on unconscious biases that lead to discrimination against minorities.

Islamabad High Court (IHC) Chief Justice Athar Minallah said conferences and court judgments were not enough unless a proactive role was played by the government, civil society and media.

It is the obligation of the state to encourage, cultivate and promote diversity. “Human rights violations occur because of the abuse of rule of law. Under the Constitution, every citizen is equal. Still we have the term ‘ordinary citizen’ commonly used.

“Every year, the president of Pakistan is obligated to submit a report on the status of implementation of ‘Principles of Policy’ of the Constitution which ensures that people are given their basic human rights. Regrettably, this constitutional obligation has never been fulfilled by any president or the governor,” he added.

NCHR Chairperson Rabiya Javeri Agha briefing participants about findings of the report said following nationwide consultations with civil society and minority groups, several human rights violations were repeatedly brought to the notice of the commission

“Paramount to those, were concerns regarding the inhuman and unconstitutional procedures in hiring of non-Muslims for low paid sanitation positions, despite constitutional and legal safeguards. Selection of sweepers and sanitation workers in government departments are done through discriminatory advertisements,” she said, adding within the course of a few days, the NCHR was able to secure more than 300 such discriminatory advertisements.

The chairperson said as a result of NCHR’s efforts, federal and provincial governments have made a commitment (in writing) to not only look into the issue of discriminatory practices but to affirm and vigorously uphold constitutional safeguards for minority citizens.

Others who spoke were: Dr Shoaib Suddle, MNA Asiya Nasir, member of NCHR Manzoor Masih and Ashraf Mall.

Published in Dawn,May 24th, 2022