Students wait in the shade at a school in Rawalpindi in Punjab province on June 10. (Photo: AFP)
Catholic bishops in Pakistan are recommending spending more money on students belonging to religious minorities in the budget for the next fiscal year.
The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party in Punjab province rolled out its budget of 2.65 trillion rupees (US$16.7 billion) on June 14, allocating 2.5 billion rupees for human rights and minority affairs, up from 500 million rupees in the previous budget.
Most of Pakistan’s 2.6 million Christians reside in Punjab while the Hindu majority live in Sindh province.
“As compared to the total budget, the funds for religious minorities are still insufficient. The provincial lawmakers should prioritize education followed by developmental works. They can ask us for help,” said Archbishop Sebastian Shaw of Lahore, a member of the National Commission for Minorities (NCM).
“Their first impulse is to spend unused funds on decorating buildings with tiles. They should spend them on renovating our schools facing challenges of damaged roofs and poor sewerage systems.”
NCM members should be included in developing proposals for minorities
“Such incentives can provide relief to daily wagers and middle-class non-Muslims mostly living in rented houses. But nobody listens to us,” he told UCA News.
On June 15, the Sindh government also presented its budget for 2021-22, allocating 154 million rupees for minority affairs.
Ramesh Kumar Gupta, a Hindu activist and lawyer in Hyderabad city in Sindh province, agreed with Archbishop Shaw.
“NCM members should be included in developing proposals for minorities. It can help avoid nepotism and ensure accountability amid the dominant wadera [feudalism] culture in Sindh province. Capitalist lawmakers, even from minorities, have their own agendas that ignore the lower class,” he told UCA News.
Sabir Michael, a human rights activist and professor at the University of Karachi, rejected distributing money among minority women.
“Another corrupt practice is to distribute 5,000 rupees among minority widows on religious feasts. Party workers should think of concrete schemes like monthly cash grants as well as scholarships for higher education and professional trainings,” he said.