Punjab bans ‘Non-Muslim’ sanitation job adverts

    Punjab province has banned job advertisements that invited applications only from non-Muslims for sanitation posts.

    In its May 25 notification, the Government of Punjab’s Services and General Administration Department declared the advertisement indicating Christians against the posts of sanitary workers in violation of human rights.

    “All the administrative departments are required to ensure deletion of any such provisions in the service regulations/rules of autonomous bodies, municipal corporations, public sector companies, projects etc. working under their control. Any violation in this regard shall entail disciplinary action,” it stated.

    “Pakistan has certain international commitments which should be honored.  Such discriminations as pointed out by the Commission (NCHR) should be stopped forthwith. Otherwise it may have adverse effect on the national interest on the one hand while on the other it hurts the feelings of persons belonging to minorities.”

    Christian activist Asif Aqeel took to twitter to thank the NCHR.

    “At last, after years labor, we have been able to make the Punjab government realize that requiring only Christians to clean human excreta, waste and dirt is dehumanizing, against human dignity,” he stated.

    However, in view of Rashid Khalid, a Christian cashier at Gourmet Foods Pakistan, this won’t bring much change in the socio-economic status of the minority community.

    “It might be detrimental for the uneducated. The poor should get what they can. We should open new ways before putting the ban on old job opportunities. Give people a choice,” he stated in a Facebook post.

    “Ban on government posts will change focus to private hirings. The issue will resolve when we educated our people and support the literate. They should be preferred in our institutes,” he added.

    This December, Punjab become the first province in Pakistan to ban a derogatory slur inflicted on sanitary workers after Municipal Committee Attock banned the word “Chuhra” for its workers.

    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.

    This January, the National Commission for Human Rights launched a campaign that features sharing awareness messages through print, electronic and digital media, a series of online posts on the discriminatory advertisements that appear for the hiring of sanitation workers, posts on government quota system, and highlighting deaths of sanitary workers on the job.

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

    On May 23, NCHR, with the support of European Union (EU) on May 23 launched its fact finding report “Unequal Citizens: Ending Systemic Discrimination against Minorities.”

    The report titled ‘Unequal Citizens: Ending Systemic Discrimination against Minorities’ 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 also been highlighted in the report.

    In order to rectify the situation, the NCHR has given certain recommendations like the 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.

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