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Christian banker 'fired for his faith' in Pakistan

Some 70 percent of Christians lost their jobs or reported reduced income during a nationwide lockdown in 2020

Christian banker 'fired for his faith' in Pakistan

Waseem Maqbool with his family in Lahore. (Photo courtesy of Waseem Maqbool)

A Christian banker, denying allegations of embezzlement, has appealed to a Catholic Church justice commission for help following his dismissal from the National Bank of Pakistan.

Waseem Maqbool, in charge of a section that documents sales and income tax returns, was investigated by the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and dismissed last month. The employee discipline office of the bank accused him of sharing the FBR user identity and password with Waseem Shehzad, a Muslim office boy who committed suicide in 2018.

“He passed fraudulent credit vouchers wherein credit was afforded to other accounts instead of the actual beneficiary and amount thereof was embezzled,” stated a FBR letter issued March 18.

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Maqbool, a father of two, admitted sharing the FBR password.

“I was following a branch manager’s directives since being transferred to the Lahore regional office in 2016. Shehzad use to help the management and received a performance award. He had access to the password of my predecessor,” he told UCA News.

“He modified handwritten vouchers to transfer the amount of 3 crores (30 million) rupees into the accounts of his father and sister-in-law. He collected funds at the direction of his bank manager. After two years of inquiry, most of the Muslim officers were declared innocent while I was dismissed. Finding a decent job amid the pandemic is tough.”

Maqbool was made a scapegoat to cover up a Muslim citizen

Behram Khan, legal aid coordinator at the Catholic bishops' National Commission for Justice and Peace, branded it as a case of religious discrimination in the workplace.

“We have been monitoring this case since 2018. It is sad to note that members of religious minorities are an easy target. Maqbool was made a scapegoat to cover up a Muslim citizen,” he said.

Christians make up 2 percent of Pakistan's population of 220 million. Most languish at the bottom of the social ladder. Largely uneducated, they work as street sweepers, trash collectors, farmhands and other menial laborers.

According to a study by the Pakistan Partnership Initiative, a Christian organization based in Islamabad, 70 percent of Christians, particularly daily-wagers and laborers, lost their jobs or reported reduced income during the nationwide lockdown last year.

Church leaders say Christians are routinely discriminated against and face a lack of employment opportunities and poor access to education despite their contributions to defense and welfare. Government and army advertisements often offer only menial employment to Christians — for example, sanitation jobs — an attitude that horrifies the minority community.

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