Human Rights

Religious Minority Businessmen Battle Discrimination

“I started a burger stall in my locality to meet my financial needs after performing duties in a private school as janitorial staff but failed to run that”, Shehbaz Masih is a janitorial staff in a private school at Rawalpindi narrated his story while talking with “The Reporters”.

People were reluctant to buy food items like fries, burger etc from his stall due to his religious background, he added.

He was of the view that the religious minority businessmen were facing discrimination in businesses related to serving food items as the Muslim community avoid buying food items from them.

He maintained that due to less sale it ultimately closed that setup and started working in the houses and offices as janitorial staff in the evening as well.

“There is no profit in the food business for religious minorities,” told a local Christian while requesting anonymity. “Christians can’t slaughter chickens because we do not recite the kalma. Many have faced fatwas (religious decrees) for not following the halal method,” he added.

Naeem Raza, a Christian Community leader in Islamabad, said, not only at the local level the government departments also have discriminatory behavior with the religious minorities.

He added, government jobs announced for the janitorial staff have very clear directions that are “Only for Christians”, they have attributed this work with Christian community. Why a Muslim or any other community member can’t do this work? He questioned.

In 2009, the Government of Pakistan release a notification instructing all government offices, both federal and provincial, to reserve 5% of all government positions from BPS-01 to BPS-22 for religious minorities. However, evidence shows that nearly half of the minority posts under the quota lie vacant. Even within the posts that are filled, 80% of Non-Muslim minorities are employed in low paid work from BPS-01 to BPS 04.

In 2019, Swabi Councilors unanimously adopted a resolution deciding to only appoint Christians as sweepers, declaring “The job of sweeper is right of only Christian community. In the past, the local government representatives appointed their supporters on these posts in flagrant violation of rules and regulations.

According to the latest data from the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, the literacy rate in Pakistan is around 58% for the overall population. However, this rate is significantly lower for religious minorities, especially for those belonging to the Hindu, Christian, and Sikh communities. The literacy rate for Hindus in Pakistan is just 38%, while for Christians it is even lower at 25%. The literacy rate for Sikhs in Pakistan is also quite low, at around 30%. These low literacy rates are due to a number of factors, including discrimination, lack of access to education, and poverty.

It is a fact that religious monitories have low literacy rate however, those who are educated and have qualified faces same problems of unemployment or low paid jobs, that’s why the Community members prefer to send their kids at any workshop instead of sending him to the college, he maintained.

“It is true that Muslims are reluctant to eat food prepared by non-Muslims; some even think it is “Harram” for Muslims,” according to Hamza Khan, a local Muslim citizen.

He argued that because everyone is conscious about faith matters, it is not simply a phenomenon limited to Rawalpindi, adding that if any non-Muslim community member offers food to Muslim residents, they take it but refuse to consume it.

Mr. Khan went on to say that it is human nature. Even in India Hindus treats Muslims differently and even physically torture them because of their religion.

While talking to The Reporters, President of the Inter-Religious Harmony Committee, Allama Izhar Bukhari, said that in Islam eating only haram things is prohibited, if the halal food is made by a person belonging to any religion, there is no harm in eating it.

He said that our Prophet had eaten together with non-Muslims on various occasions. He further said that it is the responsibility of scholars of all the religions to collectively organize such events in which people of all religions can participate, interact, eat and drink together so that the misconception could be eliminated.

The data availed from NADRA shows that there are 186,890,601 total population registered with the authority including 182,591,861 Muslims, 1,873,348 Christians, 2,201,566 Hindus, 188,340 Ahmadis, 7,413 Sikhs, 14,537 Baha’i and 3,917 Parsi. Eleven religious minority communities that are registered with NADRA were less than two thousand population i.e. Buddhist 1,787, Chinese Folk 1,151, Shintoism 628, Spiritism 95, Judaism 812, African Ethnic 1,418, Kalasha 1,522, Atheism 1,346, Jainism 6, Non-Religionism 781, Taoism 73. It further adds that there are categories of religious minorities living in Pakistan.

While talking to The Reporters, Peter Jacob – Executive Director of the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) – said that due to the growing influence of religious political parties, the society has turned indifferent and intolerant towards religious minorities. “We have not only heard of incidents of violence towards the Sikh community but also incidents of violence against Hindus and Christians have been voiced and complained,” he said.

He demanded of the concerned people responsible for maintaining peace, social cohesion and prosperity in the region to play their role in maintaining social cohesion among members of different religious groups in the area.

Samson Salamat, President Rawadari Organization told “The Reporters” that this discriminatory behavior is not only a matter of a particular district, if a Christian or a Hindu set up a cart of pakoras or sell chana dal and rice in Lahore, he will be treated the same way.

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