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NCHR launches campaign on discrimination against Christian sanitary workers

By Myra Imran
January 26, 2022

Islamabad: In line with its mandate to address violations of human rights, the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR), in collaboration with EU funded Huqooq-e-Pakistan (HeP) project, on Tuesday launched an awareness campaign on systemic discrimination against Christian sanitary workers.

The campaign was launched at the conclusion of NCHR’s day-long civil society consultation held to get stakeholders’ feedback on the Commission’s four-year strategic plan.

The event was attended by members from the civil society and professionals from print, electronic and digital media. Aimed at highlighting the challenges faced by sanitation workers in occupational safety and employment security, the campaign was launched with the screening of a film highlighting the plight of the families of sanitation workers who died in Sargodha.

A few months ago, 2 Christian Sanitation workers, Nadeem and Faisal Masih died due to toxic fumes and gases in the sewers in Sargodha.

The campaign also features sharing of messages around the issues through print, electronic and digital media, a series of online posts on the discriminatory ads that appear for hiring of sanitation worker, posts on facts related to the Government’s quota system and how it is skewed to discriminate against minorities, showcasing of similar cases such as Sargodha deaths through print, electronic and digital media.

Speaking on the occasion, Chairperson NCHR Rabiya Javeri Agha shared that the Commission intends to file a suit against the Government to remove the discriminatory language in the advertisements for employment of sanitary workers. “Such advertisements are in violation of Article 27 of the constitution of Pakistan as well as the violation of international treaties ratified by the government especially Article 1 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 1-7 of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.”

She said that in 2009, Pakistan introduced a quota of 5 per cent for minorities on all federal and provincial Government posts. “However, the Annual Statistical Bulletin of Federal Government Employees 2017–18, states that only 2.8 per cent were hired, and most of them were concentrated in low paid work,” she said adding that as of 2021, there are a total of 29,692 vacant minority posts of different grades for recruitment across Pakistan.

“Most distressingly, evidence shows that government organisations have tried to meet the requirement by advertising sanitation jobs and other low paying work as being exclusively for Christians or other ‘Non-Muslims.’ Even though Christians are 1.6 per cent of the population of Pakistan, they represent over 80 per cent of the sanitation workforce,” she informed.