“Let me wash my hands first and then I will be able to sit with you and drink tea,” these were the words of a government official who had embraced a Christian friend while leaving his office. The officer said that despite everything, the man was a chura — a derogatory term used for Christians.
This is but one example of the countless discriminations and derogations that minorities face in our society. When it comes to inducting employees at the government level, the situation is not much different, even though much paperwork has been done to ensure that minorities get an equal status.
Reportedly, there are 3.5 million non-Muslims in Pakistan. But it took a good 62 years for the federal cabinet to approve a five per cent job quota for non-Muslims — which it eventually did in May 2009. Following the federal cabinet, the Punjab government issued a notification on March 27, 2013, allocating a five per cent job quota for minorities which has, so far, not been implemented. Realising the difficulties in implementing this quota, the Punjab government issued another notification on June 19, 2012 stating, “It has been observed that the administrative department neither properly calculates the total vacancies against the quota nor reflects vacancies against the quota in advertisements while recruiting”. The notification directed that while making recruitment to various posts, the vacancies reserved for minorities must be calculated and published in advertisements clearly to allow all eligible candidates to apply against the quota. The Lahore High Court in 2010 and 2013 issued separate instructions to the Punjab Public Service Commission and Punjab chief secretary respectively to implement a job quota for minorities — but in vain.
The ongoing process of appointing dozens of staffers to the railway and police force pays no heed to the minority quota. Unfortunately, most members of the minority community themselves are oblivious to this quota. Barely any members of minority communities go to court against unjust appointments. Some feel they have done the needful by organising rallies. Such a protest was organised by dozens of Christians two weeks ago in Faisalabad. The protesters staged a sit-in in front of the regional police office for several hours against non-implementation of a five per cent job quota for minorities.
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, in its latest report issued a month back, recommended that Pakistan be designated as a country of particular concern for failing to protect rights of minorities. It had made the same recommendations several times. It is time for us to take some revolutionary steps to make the religious minorities realise that they are equal citizens of Pakistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 4th, 2014.
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