What is needed is a change in the mindsets of many who refuse to see non-Muslims as equal citizens of this country
According to a report presented to parliament recently, more than 70 percent of posts reserved for non-Muslims in 52 federal government departments remain vacant. Around 8,126 posts for non-Muslims are lying empty in ministries and attached departments. The largest number of posts lying vacant are in Punjab, followed by Sindh, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. There are also vacant posts in Gilgit-Baltistan. Opposition senators have demanded that the government follow the relevant laws by filling these posts in a timely manner. In response, the government says that it has already begun the process. In Balochistan, 208 non-Muslims have been employed in paramilitary forces and in various other departments.
The failure to fill these posts amounts to discrimination against minority groups and worsens their hardships. However, to improve their situation, far more needs to be done than merely filling posts meant for them in government departments. A holistic policy needs to be developed to uplift them and draw them further into the mainstream of society. There is, after all, no reason why we should need special provisions to offer jobs to minorities. Given opportunities, they should be able to compete for these on the same basis as the majority groups. In an ideal world, merit should be the only criterion. However, given how minorities are discriminated against at all levels, including in the field of education, it means that to ensure their progress, quotas need to be established. There is also no reason why specific minority groups should be assigned specific jobs. Our social norms, very unfortunately, mean that generally only Christians are hired for sanitary work. They end up with the worst-paid and lowest status jobs in society. What is needed is state policy that protects the interests of minority groups and equips them with the education and skills needed to succeed in life. What is also needed is a change in the mindsets of many who refuse to see non-Muslims as equal citizens of this country.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 3rd, 2015.
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