The Islamabad High Court on Wednesday issued notices to various ministries on a writ petition seeking a ban on job advertisements that specifically reserve the post of “sweepers” for members of the minority communities, particularly Christians.
The petition filed by National Commission for Minorities Member Albert David and Center for Rule of Law President Advocate Majid Bashir stated that specifying Christians and other minorities for the position of “sweepers” in government, semi-government, and private job ads were promoting discrimination against the religious minorities and increasing the sense of deprivation in the marginalized and vulnerable communities.
The petition added that such discriminatory job ads were also in violation of the Constitution of Pakistan that guaranteed equal rights to all citizens of the country regardless of their religion, caste, and creed.
Admitting the petition, IHC Justice Aamir Farooq Paracha issued notices to the Cabinet Division, Federal Ministry for Human Rights, Federal Ministry for Religious Affairs, Federal Ministry for Law and Justice, and Federal Ministry for Inter-Provincial Coordination.
Government-sponsored discrimination is usually witnessed in such advertisements throughout Pakistan, say human rights activists and church leaders.
While other open positions were advertised, only the “sweepers” positions were specifically reserved for minorities, they noted.
Christian rights watchdog International Christian Concern says that widespread discrimination often relegates Pakistani Christians to the lowest rungs of society.
Discriminatory hiring practices, that see Christians overrepresented in the lowest positions of the workforce, only reinforce the low social status of Pakistani Christians, it said.
Christians make up to 80-90 percent of the sanitation workforce, including the country’s street sweepers, janitors, and sewer workers. Pakistani Christians comprise only two percent of the country’s population.
Advertisements discriminating on the basis of religion are in violation of Article 27 (1) of the Constitution of Pakistan, which safeguards against discrimination in services. It states, “No citizen otherwise qualified for appointment in the service of Pakistan shall be discriminated against in respect of any such appointment on the ground only of race, religion, caste, sex, residence or place of birth.”
The publishing of such advertisements only further impinges on the rights of minorities and lionizes extremist elements of society, activists say.
Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights describes: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” The impetus to treat all citizens equally is also reflected in Articles 1-7 of the United Nations Convention on the elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), ratified by Pakistan in 1966.
Therefore, the publishing of discriminatory advertisements by the government is also violative of international obligations and as a member of the UN, activists say.