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Karachi’s Christian youth sign up to become cops amid crime surge

Their recruitment under a minority quota comes in the wake of a decision by Pakistan’s top court
Christian youth enroll for a constables' recruitment drive held at the behest of the Sindh police department and the Catholic Archdiocese of Karachi on April 9.

Christian youth enroll for a constables' recruitment drive held at the behest of the Sindh police department and the Catholic Archdiocese of Karachi on April 9. (Photo supplied)

Published: April 19, 2024 11:21 AM GMT
Updated: April 19, 2024 11:27 AM GMT

Joshua Gill was walking on the street near his home last week in Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi when two men on a motorbike snatched his cell phone. The incident left the 19-year-old a bit shaken but determined to become part of Karachi’s police force.

Gill had enrolled for the constables' recruitment drive held on April 9. “I want to play my part in cleaning up Karachi’s streets of crime,” he told UCA News.

The Catholic youth, studying for his higher secondary certificate and working in a local restaurant, looks forward to appearing for the written exam and physical fitness tests.

“I am positive, as the police authorities and our archdiocese helped us out a lot,” Gill said.

The recruitment drive was held at the behest of the city police and the Catholic Archdiocese of Karachi to fill the 194 vacancies set aside for minorities among 3,108 vacancies.

Archbishop Benny Mario Travas is keen that Christian boys and girls who are better educated make the effort to qualify and join the force, Gill said

There’s also a special quota of 583 for female candidates.

Anyone who has successfully completed 10th grade or equivalent can apply for the post of constable in the Sindh police department.

“Hopefully, the minority quota will be filled as required,” said Kashif Anthony, a coordinator for the National Commission of Justice and Peace (NCJP).

The Catholic rights organization, based in Sindh's provincial capital, Karachi, facilitated the April 9 drive.

It helped Christian youth fill out registration forms online and arranged for Karachi police officials to brief candidates regarding the selection process.

“We helped around 240 men and 30-plus women apply for the constables' post,” Anthony said.

He felt the numbers were encouraging.

“It is a positive development because it shows that our [Christian] youngsters now are increasingly applying for better jobs than limiting themselves to the jobs of sanitary workers and sweepers,” he explained.

Christians comprise over two percent of Karachi’s 20.3 million people, slightly higher than their national percentage.

However, like elsewhere in the country, they mostly occupy the lowest rungs of society due to a lack of opportunities to better their lives.

In the past, government advertisements used to invite applications for jobs, reserving jobs like sweepers for Christians, leading to Christian protests and complaints.  

The recruitment of constables under the minority quota in the Sindh police department follows a decision of the Supreme Court of Pakistan regarding the protection of minority rights.

However, over the years, most provinces, including the Punjab and Sindh governments, have failed to adhere to the five percent job quota for minorities in the police department.

Anthony was confident candidates from minority communities, especially Catholics, would prove themselves during recruitment.

“They are very energetic, driven people and are committed to serving their nation,” he told UCA News.

Gill said that he wants to qualify as a constable and “work my way up from there based on my performance.”

“You know most of the senior posts in police, including other government departments, are filled by Muslims only,” he said.

But that’s about to change. For the first time in the country's history, over 700 officers from the minority community are being appointed to higher positions in the civil services nationwide.

Gill hopes he will make it and be able to support his family, which includes his mother and a retired father.

Violence and street crimes plagued Karachi for decades. The city’s ethnically diverse population of Urdu-speaking people are known as Muhajirs, who migrated from India at the time of the partition of the subcontinent in 1947.

The presence of diverse people -- Pashtuns, Sindhis, and Punjabis -- has often caused the city to become a breeding ground for political violence.

There’s also been a surge in street crimes in recent months, with 4,546 two-wheelers and 1,808 mobile phones stolen in March alone, according to the Citizens Police Liaison Committee, a non-political statutory organization that monitors crime in the city.

Forty-eight people were killed resisting street robberies in Karachi during the month, while another 12 were shot dead from April 1 to 16, it said.

Karachi police spokesperson Safi Ullah told UCA News that crime in the city had increased due to surging inflation and unemployment in the South Asian country, which is undergoing an economic crisis and political instability.

“Police, however, are doing whatever they can to control crime in the city,” he said.

When asked about the likely role of members of minority communities in law enforcement, he said they were better educated and that their inclusion would strengthen the police force.

“Karachi Police hires people regardless of their caste, creed or faith,” Ullah said. “We select candidates purely on merit.”

Rahail Bashir, a 23-year-old hairdresser who participated in the April 9 recruitment drive, hopes to become a constable.

“If I make it, I hope to make a real difference to my city," he said.

He said members of his Christian community in the Azam Town neighborhood were worried because of the surging street crimes.

“Last year I was robbed of an entire month’s salary at gunpoint. If I can do my bit to ensure the streets remain safe as a constable of the police force, well then, why not?” Bashir told UCA News.

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