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COMMENT : No place for minorities in Imran Khan’s ‘Naya’ Pakistan — Shamim Mehmood

You cannot go around treating people who are not on the same level as you or who do not share the same religion as you by giving them jobs that are inferior just because they are inferior to you on the basis that they are not Muslims

A great deal has been written about the plight of minorities in Pakistan, some by the minorities themselves and some by the majority. Minority rights in Pakistan have always been disrespected. In this piece, however, I want to focus on another aspect of the statement the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) leader issued, which I did not believe initially. I heard Imran Khan speak in public many times and observed that he is not very supportive of the Pakistani minorities. During the 2013 election drive, he did not highlight the issues of minorities, neither did he give importance to Christians in the priority list submitted to the ECP. Christians are the biggest minority in Pakistan but placed at number second on purpose.

PTI is a pro-Islamic political party and it is clear that he favours the Jamaat-e-Islami, which is a radical political party and an ally of the PTI in KP. The PTI chief has been claiming for years that his party would provide justice to every citizen irrespective of caste, creed and religion but I personally observed him as rigid. Finally, the PTI nominated chief minister in KP is showing the real face of the PTI after coming into power in one province of Pakistan. While delivering his statement, he said that sanitary workers (cleaning drains, streets and roads) jobs will be given to minorities (Christians, Hindus and scheduled castes) only. Muslims from the province are not eligible for this job.

Finally, someone from the PTI has spoken and shown the double standards of their policies. It is worth reflecting that in Europe and the US, Muslims have built mosques by the thousands and practice their faith daily, and it does not cause any disruption. Since 9/11, there has been some change in attitudes by Europeans but it is minor compared to the horrors minorities face in Pakistan.

Christians have been serving the nation in the educational sector, health and social sectors. Unfortunately, Z A Bhutto nationalised their institutions and declared them second class citizens. Now the PTI expects them to perform cleaning or sanitary jobs.

Pervez Khattak has truly hurt the feelings of the minorities and Christians are disappointed about the change they planned to bring in the country. Dr Nazir S Bhatti, President of Pakistan Christian Congress (PCP) has strongly condemned the statement and demanded an immediate clarification from Imran Khan. He urged the Pakistani Christians to stay away from the PTI because who knows what their next decision might be, maybe announce a separate dress code for non-Muslims in KP?

Albert David, Chairman Pakistan United Christian Movement, declared it highly insensitive, discriminatory and biased, and has demanded a public apology and resignation of Mr Khattak. Otherwise the PTI will face a strong protest by non-Muslim Pakistanis if the leadership of the PTI does not take an immediate action. Is this the ‘change’ that the PTI had been rallying for, Mr David asked the PTI leadership.

Shireen Mazari, the PTI spokesperson answered me in a text message when I questioned this statement: “It was not against minorities. He spoke against the previous minister who hired hoards of sifarshis (recommendees) as sweepers and once in there these people said they could not do the job as they were ‘Muslims’ and wanted to be posted elsewhere. So the CM said if these people refused to do the job they were hired for because they were Muslims and would not clean then they should be fired and Christians who needed the job should be hired instead.” So how is that being against minorities?

It is amazing that the people refused to do the job they were hired for and the CM declared that the job is only for minorities. I wanted to ask the Christian campaigners if this was what they had invested their time and money for this day.

It does make me feel that there must be some form of racism or discrimination towards people of other faiths especially in Pakistan, where the minorities are less valued as worthy human beings and thus are given jobs that are considered as lower-end jobs for (according to some societies) lower-class/worthless/low status people. I, however, think it is simply out of order. You cannot go around treating people who are not on the same level as you or who do not share the same religion as you by giving them jobs that are inferior just because they are inferior to you on the basis that they are not Muslims. It is the morally wrong way to go about treating people.

The writer is a human rights activist and is working as a stinger, specialising in writing about minority rights for various national and international papers

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