Global Human Rights Defence

Pakistan: Discriminatory job offers in the Government of Sindh

Article written by  research intern
Sergi Riudalbas Clemente-
Team Pakistan

Water and Sanitation Agency Lahore workers pull a Christian sanitary worker out of a manhole. Photo: Ucanews.com
Vacancies in the Livestock & Fisheries Department of the Sindh’s Government. Photo: Jobz.pk

Pakistan: Discriminatory job offers in the Government of Sindh

May 22nd 2021, the Government of Sindh has announced the Livestock Wing of the Livestock & Fisheries Department vacancies, which encompasses positions such as animal attendant, livestock attendant, and fisherman. While most positions are open to students who have completed a fifth-grade basic education, regardless of their religious beliefs, the sweeper and sanitary worker posts are exclusively open to non-Muslims.

The case at hand is a clear example of how members of religious minorities such as Hindus and Christians in Pakistan are often relegated to the most low-paid and menial jobs (Child and Labour Rights Welfare Organisation [CLWO] & Human Rights Commission of Pakistan [HRCP], 2019). Moreover, sanitary jobs, primarily undertaken by members of these minorities across the country, lack proper occupational safety standards, putting them in a high-risk situation when performing their duties (CLWO & HRCP, 2019).

Discrimination in government offices is clearly highlighted by the available data from The Express Tribune (Irfan, 2014). According to the newspaper, the data demonstrates that despite having a Bachelor’s degree, a number of non-Muslims are not picked for office responsibilities and are instead appointed as sanitary staff (Irfan, 2014). For instance, Sagar Masih, who works as a sweeper in a government department in Peshawar, told The Express Tribune he had completed his Bachelor’s degree. Despite his qualifications, he was appointed as a sweeper (Irfan, 2014). Similarly, Amjad Daniel, a Christian who has been a sanitation worker in the Water and Sewerage Authority in Pakistan for 20 years despite having a B.A. degree, was only able to receive a promotion when he brought his case to the Supreme Court in Pakistan (CLWO & HRCP, 2019). These examples, according to Daniel, take place due to the departments’ overall biases and discriminatory attitudes against minorities (CLWO & HRCP, 2019).

According to World Watch Monitor even though Christians make up only 2% of the population, minority representation in sanitation jobs in Pakistan is over 80%. This organization tracks Christian persecution around the world (Hussain, 2020).

As a result of this persisting practice in various parts of Pakistan, many Pakistanis refer to Christians as Churha (dirty), a highly offensive and derogatory term (Hussain, 2020).

Nonetheless, the fact that Hindus in Pakistan are equally affected by these discriminatory job offers shall not be disregarded. Indeed, Hindus and Christians account for the large majority of sanitary positions in Pakistan, a reality that has sparked outrage from Hindu and Christian rights groups. Following the publication of the vacancies for the Livestock Wing of the Livestock & Fisheries Department, Pakistani Hindu rights groups questioned why such jobs are given to non-Muslims in particular (OpIndia, 2021). For instance, Hindu rights activist Kapil Dev lamented that sanitary jobs are exclusively for Christians and Hindus in Pakistan and demanded an equal proportion of Muslim sweepers, cleaners & sanitary workers (OpIndia, 2021).

The 5% Minority quota

In May 2009, the federal government of Pakistan issued a notification for the approval of a fixed job quota (5%) for minorities, which was intermittently followed by similar provisions from the provincial governments (Butt, 2019). The provision reads as follows:

“It has been decided by the Federal Government to reserve, with immediate effect, 05% quota for employment of Minorities (Non-Muslims), as defined in Article 260(3)(b) of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan 1973, to all posts across the board in the Federal Government Services/jobs to be filled by direct recruitment including CSS, in addition to their participation in the open merit.”

There is a lack of comprehensive data on the employment share of religious minorities in Pakistan due to the fact that major official sources such as the Economic Survey of Pakistan and Labour Force surveys do not provide such data or segregated figures for religious minorities in jobs. However, the empirical evidence suggests that the job quota for minorities is far from being met (Butt, 2019). Minorities are still unable to benefit from this quota, and minority job openings remain unfilled (Butt, 2019).

These unfilled vacancies are often attributed to the fact that certain groups, due to their ethnic and/or caste identity, are perpetually disadvantaged in their access to labour markets and are vulnerable to coercion (National Commission for Human Rights Pakistan, 2019). In other words, Hindus and Christians are trapped in a vicious circle when it comes to a lack of education and career opportunities (CLWO & HRCP, 2019). Because they are considered only worthy of sanitation jobs, they do not earn enough to educate their children, who are in turn only equipped to do the same jobs as their parents (CLWO & HRCP, 2019). Doubtlessly, an education job quota for minorities in Pakistan would contribute to the effective implementation of the job quota. According to Butt (2019), a news writer for the British weekly magazine The News on Sunday, the scarcely available data shows that more than 70 per cent of posts reserved for non-Muslims in accordance with the minority quota were lying vacant in 2015. 

Discrimination in the workplace

Minorities in Pakistan are not only discriminated against when applying for jobs but they are also subjected to harassment at work. According to a key finding of a study published in 2019 by the CLWO and HRCP on discrimination and inequality in employment in Pakistan, members of religious minorities in the country are “advised” or exhorted –even offered bribes- by colleagues in their workplaces to convert to Islam (CLWO & HRCP, 2019). 

The study sets forth many stories in support of its findings. One noteworthy example is that of Rehana Jung, a Christian swimming instructor in Pakistan. She claims she was subjected to extreme pressure to convert, which she continually resisted, resulting in her being harassed at work on a regular basis (CLWO & HRCP, 2019). Eventually, Rehana was compelled to resign, given the “mental torture” that she suffered on a daily basis (CLWO & HRCP, 2019).

In this context, what happened to Rehana is by no means a unique case of discrimination in the workplace in Pakistan. Other well-known cases include that of Aasia Bibi, a woman who was sentenced to death for blasphemy after an argument over her drinking water from the same glass used by Muslims; or that of Parmala Ravi, a Christian who quit working for a multinational company in Pakistan after four days when a manager asked her not to use the same eating utensils as her Muslim colleagues (Gulzar, 2018).

Pakistan’s provisions on discrimination

These discriminatory measures on access to jobs clearly are at odds with the provisions set forth in the Pakistani Constitution. In this regard, two articles are noteworthy: Article 18 and Article 27. Article 18 gives all citizens the right to enter upon any lawful profession or occupation and to conduct any lawful trade or business subject to qualification and licensing requirements. Article 27 of the Constitution reads as follows: “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”.

References

Butt, I.H. (2019, February 24th). The unfinished agenda of minority quota. In The News on Sunday. https://www.thenews.com.pk/tns/detail/567312-unfinished-agenda-minority-quota

Child and Labour Rights Welfare Organisation & Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (2019). Discrimination and Inequality in Employment – Stories from Urban Sindh. Available at http://hrcp-web.org/hrcpweb/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Discrimination-and-Inequality-in-Employment-FINAL.pdf 

Gulzar, A. (2018, January 18th). Pakistan religious minorities face discrimination at work. In UcaNews. https://www.ucanews.com/news/pakistan-religious-minorities-face-discrimination-at-work/81267

Hussain, Z. (2020, September 4th). “Non-Muslim” sanitation job advert draws flak in Pakistan. In UcaNews. https://www.ucanews.com/news/non-muslim-sanitation-job-advert-draws-flak-in-pakistan/89404

Irfan, M. (2014, May 19th). A sorry state of affairs: Despite 5% quota, minorities remain out of public service. In The Express Tribune. https://tribune.com.pk/story/710509/a-sorry-state-of-affairs-despite-5-quota-minorities-remain-out-of-public-service

National Commission for Human Rights Pakistan (2019). Towards abolishing bonded labour in Pakistan. Available at https://nchr.gov.pk/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Bonded-Labour.pdf

Pakistan: job vacancy for sanitary workers only limited to “non-Muslims”, discriminatory ad sparks outrage. In OpIndia. Available at https://www.opindia.com/2021/05/pakistan-discriminatory-ad-reserves-sanitary-worker-job-for-non-muslims/

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