The report titled ‘Unequal Citizens: Ending Systemic Discrimination against Minorities’ compiled by the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) in collaboration with the European Union (EU) highlights the hazardous working conditions, insufficient safety gear and equipment, lack of job security and payment of low compensation to the injured and families of those who die while working. It also shed light on the poor condition of sanitation workers who have faced societal ostracisation, stigma, discrimination, and death in deadly manholes.
The commission has given certain recommendations to reduce the poor working condition of the minority workers in Pakistan. It suggested the use of machines instead of manual labor where there is a danger of death or injury to sanitation workers and providing them with social security and healthcare.
Moreover, it urges to end discrimination against minorities in the employment quota, there should be an immediate ban on the practice of publishing discriminatory advertisements and ensuring public transparency in the number of minority posts filled across each basic pay scale.
In this regard, the minister for Human Rights Riaz Hussain Pirzada said that “On the basis of the letter sent by NCHR, the ministry of human rights took immediate action and issued a letter to chief secretaries of each province, directing them to ensure that minorities are protected in line with international obligations and constitutional guarantees.”
Expressing her views on the report, Minister for Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety Shazia Marri stressed the sensitization of relevant government departments on unconscious biases that lead to discrimination against minorities.
The Chief Justice of Islamabad High Court, Mr. Athar Minallah states that only conferences and court judgments are not enough unless a proactive role was played by the government, civil society and media. He further said that it is the obligation of the state to encourage, cultivate and promote diversity. “Human rights violations occur because of the abuse of rule of law. Under the Constitution, every citizen is equal. Still, we have the term ‘ordinary citizen’ commonly used.
The chief justice regretted that “Every year, the president of Pakistan is obligated to submit a report on the status of implementation of ‘Principles of Policy’ of the Constitution which ensures that people are given their basic human rights but this constitutional obligation has never been fulfilled by any president or the governor.”
The Chairperson of NCHR Rabiya Javeri Agha said the inhuman and unconstitutional procedures in hiring of non-Muslims for low-paid sanitation positions, despite constitutional and legal safeguards is a major concern highlighted by the report. She further said that selection of sweepers and sanitation workers in government departments are done through discriminatory advertisements as the NCHR was able to secure more than 300 such discriminatory advertisements.
She said that as a result of NCHR’s efforts, federal and provincial governments have agreed to not only look into the issue of discriminatory practices but to affirm and vigorously uphold constitutional safeguards for minority citizens.