MULTAN (UCAN): A government job advertisement in Pakistan singling out Christians, Hindus and Shia Muslims for sweeper jobs have drawn the ire of the Church, as well as human rights advocates.
The advertisement for sweepers, a designation put on people who clean the streets, public areas, do waste removal and sanitation work, was placed by local government officials in Bannu district in northwestern Pakistan in a local Urdu daily on March 17.
Critics described it as just another example of religious minorities being forced into degrading jobs.
The advertisement said that male and female applicants must be Hindu, Christian or Shia—the minority Muslim sect.
Although officials now claim the word Shia was added by mistake, they maintain that religious minorities are preferred for these jobs.
The Justice and Peace Commission in Multan condemned what it described as repeated discriminatory advertisements put out by the government.
“Faisalabad Waste Management Company issued a similar notice earlier this year asking for healthy non-Muslims for waste workers. We sent a legal notice to the administration of the Nishtar Hospital in Multan last year for specifying the same post,” Hyacinth Peter, the executive secretary of the commission, said.
“We condemn the latest advertisement and urge the government of Bannu to republish the notice without specifying specific religious communities,” she said.
“Non-Muslim sweepers are preferred because they are easily exploited. It is a wrong mindset; people should be sensitised,” she added.
Historically, Christians in Pakistan have been assigned jobs described as “degrading and defiling.” Road sweepers are mostly Christian and are described as untouchable or low-born.
Although Asia Bibi, a Catholic mother of five, was sentenced to death on charges of blasphemy, she maintains her only crime was to drink water meant for Muslims only, as she was considered untouchable by her fellow farm workers.
A news report quoting the World Watch Monitor says that minority representation in sanitation work in Pakistan is above 80 per cent. According to the report, 824 out of 935 sanitation workers in the Peshawar Municipal Corporation are Christian.
About 6,000 out of 7,894 sanitation workers in the Lahore Waste Management Company are Christian as are 768 out of 978 workers in the Quetta Municipal Corporation.
More than 95 per cent of Pakistan’s 180 million people are Muslim, the majority of them belonging to the Sunni branch of Islam. Less than two per cent are Christian, Hindu or from other religious minorities.