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Pakistan religious minorities face discrimination at work

Church appreciates research that shows Christians and Hindus must deal with unfair treatment and alienation

Ayyaz Gulzar, Islamabad

Ayyaz Gulzar, Islamabad

Published: January 18, 2018 04:56 AM GMT

Updated: January 18, 2018 05:08 AM GMT

Pakistan religious minorities face discrimination at work

Human rights activists in Pakistan discuss the research on workplace discrimination. (Photo supplied)

Parmala Ravi Shankar quit working for a multinational company in Pakistan after four days when a manager asked her not to use the same eating utensils as Muslim colleagues.

She was told to instead bring her own from home.

"I was wondering what is going on — am I not a human being?" Shankar recalls.

What happened to her is by no means unique.

Other well-known cases include that of a woman who was sentenced to death for blasphemy after an argument over her drinking water from the same glass used by Muslims.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, in collaboration with organizations such as the Catholic Bishops' Conference, has conducted case studies in Karachi and Hyderabad of Sindh province.   

Moazzam Ali, a project coordinator, said a primary aim was to highlight impacts on people's lives.

A survey posed 22 questions related to constitutional guarantees such as the outlawing of discriminatory employment practices.

Father Saleh Diego, director of the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) of the Catholic Bishops' Conference, said some people had a discriminatory mindset.

The NCJP has been involved in the research project, which found that in many instances Christians or Hindus were simply not employed at a particular workplace because of their religion.

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In other cases, they were given a job but alienated from Muslim workmates.

Father Diego said he remained hopeful that the new research would help people facing discrimination understand that their voices could be heard.

He encouraged human rights groups to take specific cases to the media.

Father Diego also called for prosecution of those engaged in workplace discrimination.

There was an allegation, for example, that the only Christian teacher at a school was unfairly singled out for criticism and eventually dismissed.

The NCJP provided him with legal assistance and temporary financial support.

Another episode centered on an advertisement in Sindh province stipulating that stigmatized employment of sanitary workers was only for non-Muslims.

There have also been complaints that some school textbooks suggest that Muslims are superior to adherents of other faiths.

Mohammad Nayyar, a human rights activist, recalled that at one office a Hindu employee had to sit by himself at lunchtime

Over time Nayyar had been able to convince those responsible that such discrimination is inhumane.

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