Under Imran Khan government, religious minorities remain discriminated against
The Pakistan Rangers (Sindh) sought recruits for a variety of positions ranging from sub-inspector to sepoys but the "non-combatant" jobs like "sanitary workers" and "bootmaker", were meant only for non-Muslims.
The ad published on August 26 in Dawn, Pakistan's national English daily with liberal leanings, went viral on social media, inviting online criticism and outrage. The Pakistan Rangers (Sindh) sought recruits for a variety of positions ranging from sub-inspector to sepoys but the "non-combatant" jobs like "sanitary workers" and "bootmaker", were meant only for non-Muslims. A similar advertisement for jobs in Sheikhupura in Punjab was published last year.
"This is a standard ad, which has been appearing in newspapers since decades, reflecting the deep-rooted discriminatory mindset of authorities towards minorities. Offering sanitation jobs to Christians and Hindus is a prime example of institutional discrimination against religious minorities," Ismat Shahjehan, a prominent Pakistani rights activist, told TOI.
In Muslim-majority Pakistan, religious minorities have to struggle even for low-level jobs in the public sector. Their abysmal poverty and lack of decent opportunities in government continue to incessantly place them at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder. Government institutions have reserved menial jobs specifically for them for the last several decades.
In a landmark ruling in 2014, the Supreme Court of Pakistan had mandated a quota system, with five per cent of government jobs set aside for religious minorities in Pakistan. The rule, according to rights groups, is rarely enforced. Even when it is, the reserved jobs are often found only in the sectors not seen as desirable by the mainstream Muslim society.
Samson Salamat, chairman of the Rwadari Tehreek, a social movement launched in 2015 to counter intolerance and discrimination against minorities in Pakistan, said, "Nothing concrete has been done by authorities to stop this unfair and bigoted attitude."
According to several historians, since Pakistan was created in the name of religion, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, had appointed Jogendra Nath Mandal, a Hindu, and Sir Muhammad Zafrullah Khan, an Ahmadi, as ministers, to minimize religious conflict. But soon after Jinnah's death, the nature of governance changed quickly, and in 1949, the first Prime Minister of the country Liaquat Ali Khan declared Islam as the state religion. Thereafter, religion took centre-stage in Pakistani society through state policies and its direct interventions. As a result, the status of non-Muslims as equal citizens began diminishing.
In 1956, the country adopted the name "Islamic Republic of Pakistan", further cornering minorities. However, with the process of "Islamisation" introduced and stringently enforced by the military dictator General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, the process of discrimination against non-Muslims was institutionalised.