Christian sanitation worker dies in Faisalabad sewer

    A Christian sanitation worker of WASA Faisalabad died while saving three other colleagues repairing the main disposal at Narwala Road Chakira on Friday.

    Shaukat Masih, father of 3 children, inhaled toxic gas in absence of any safety equipment. His body was salvaged by Rescue 1122 staffers and handed over to heirs after negotiations with WASA management and employees union CBA.

    The surviving sewermen are under treatment at Government General Hospital, Ghulam Muhammad Abad. At least 50 sewermen of WASA have died while cleaning drains of Faisalabad in recent years.

    The news was widely shared by Christian social media users.

    “Another precious life victim of negligence,” Mary James Gill founder advocacy campaign, Sweepers Are Superheroes, said in a Facebook post. Seventy Lahore Waster Management Corporation workers died while cleaning sewers in 2019, she claims.

    On Jan. 25, the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) launched a campaign to share awareness messages through print, electronic and digital media, a series of online posts on discriminatory advertisements for sanitation workers, information on the government’s quota system and highlighting the deaths of sanitary workers.

    Read more: NCHR kicks off protest campaign for Christian sanitary workers

    The NCHR also screened a documentary about two Christian sanitary workers who died in a sewer in Sargodha, Punjab province, in Oct. 2021.

    Christians are often despised by the majority-Muslim population in Pakistan and referred to as chuhra, a pejorative caste-based term meaning sweeper or janitor.

    Job advertisements published by both provincial governments and security establishments inviting applications from non-Muslims for sanitation posts often discriminate against the community.

    Read more: Pakistani Christians irked by repeated discriminatory ads for sanitary posts

    The government denies the existence of caste practices. However, human rights activists say religious minorities often face caste-based discrimination from people who avoid sharing meals or a glass of water with them.

    On Jan. 12, Islamabad High Court 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 minority communities, particularly Christians.

    In 2009, the national government reserved a 5 percent job quota for minorities in all federal and provincial government posts. However, rights organizations claimed that most people from religious minorities were doing menial jobs.

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