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Tuesday, 10 July 2012

The charade and sham of Pakistan's 5% quota

Cleanliness before safety for suffering minorities!

One of the ways the Government of Pakistan claims to be helping overcome the discrimination against religious minorities is by reserving a certain proportion of state positions for them - in other words, a certain proportion of civil service jobs have to be given to minorities.  In theory this means that talented and well educated minority candidates can get respected jobs that use their qualifications.
The reality turns out to be rather different.  An article in the Pakistani newspaper The Express Tribune gives both anecdotal and statistical evidence that the positions of 'bhangi' - sanitation workers, involving cleaning toilets etc, are being given pretty much exclusively to minority members - Sikhs, Hindus and Christians etc.  In some cases, well educated minority members with degrees chose to leave well paid but somewhat insecure jobs in the private sphere to join what they thought would be respected and secure jobs in the civil service.  They were heart-broken to find they had essentially been downgraded from responsible jobs to the equivalent of the 'chuhras' 'street-sweepers', a term that is used as an insult for Christians.

Dozens of departments only allow minorities to apply for sanitation workers jobs.  Even in the Sindh minorities Department, nearly all of the sanitation workers are Christians or Hindus. A Christian worker testified that every single Christian graduate holder who applied for a civil service job in their area was offered the job of sanitation worker.  They also claimed that the of the few Muslims who had sanitation jobs, nearly all just took salaries, but didn't actually work.

The extent of the despair is shown by one well-educated Hindu sanitation worker said he didn't plan to spend much money on education for his children as it was a complete waste of time for minorities.  Christians spoke of the shame and degradation of being forced into such menial jobs.   In other words, the much trumpeted '5% quota' is a charade and a sham, and only serves to perpetuate the deep discrimination it is purported to ameliorate.  

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