The federal government announced an employment quota for all religious minorities in May 2009, and since then, the provinces have articulated the same in their policy as an affirmative action programme for the promotion and uplift of minorities. The five-percent job quota is in line with Qauid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s promise to religious minorities on November 8, 1945, “No civilised government can be run successfully without giving minorities a complete sense of security and confidence. They must be made to feel that they have a hand in government and to do this they must have adequate representation in it. Pakistan will give this.”
The Annual Statistical Bulletin of Federal Government Employees 2010-11, however, shows this goal could not fully realised. The total population of non-Muslims in Pakistan accounts for about 5 percent, and in Islamabad, it is roughly about 10 percent of the total population. But out of 449,964 jobs, only 2.6 percent or 11,521 are held by non-Muslims in the federal capital. About 70 per cent of the 11,521 jobs fall in Grade 1 and Grade 2, mostly done by Christians, while not a single non-Muslim is in Grade 22.
Most state functionaries believe that the job quota for minorities means hiring them as cleaners
The situation is really not all that different in the provinces, especially in Punjab, where the bulk of Christians are working in menial occupations. For example, the University of the Punjab employed 97 Christians since January 2009 (probably without actually observing the minority job quota). The occupational division of these employments is as follow: one staff nurse, one technician, one research scholar, one software engineer, one electric coolie, five malis (gardeners), two naib qasids (peons), two junior clerks, one laboratory supervisor, one laboratory attendant, one driver in the transport wing, while more than 75 per cent of Christians are employed as sanitary works.
Most state functionaries believe that the job quota for minorities means hiring them as cleaners. The Punjab Ombudsman in May 2013 clearly stated that not implementing the job quota was a “serious maladministration” on the part of universities. However, higher education institutions believe that no minorities under the job quota can be hired as professors and so does the judiciary, which doesn’t apply the job quota to its own hiring policies.
It is also observed that in some instances, there are no suitable candidates available to fill the reserved posts, though several members from minority communities lament the lack of a proper mechanism on the part of the government to see if departments are actually implementing the employment quota and separate selection criteria for these vacancies.
But most importantly, how can the state fill these jobs without first preparing minority youth to meet the minimum standard? Article 37 of the Constitution of Pakistan says, “The State shall promote, with special care, the educational and economic interests of backward classes and areas.” As the constitution says, education is the first step to ensure economic uplift. Policymakers who notified the job quota should have first noted that education is a prerequisite to professional grooming. After all, if an educated lot is not supplied to the job market, then there is no use of advertising professional vacancies for minorities and later opening them up for mainstream unavailability of such professionals.
It is a coincidence that the bulk of Christian and Hindu minorities also happen to come from downtrodden sections of society that were kept, for millennia, under the yoke of descent-based occupational suppression. They were forced to do menial and degrading work so that cheap labor could be provided to higher classes of priests, warriors and businessmen.
It is in this backdrop that the reservation or quota in education, scholarships, jobs, and political representation of backward and marginalised classes was initiated in the Indian subcontinent in 1935. It is provided under positive discrimination or affirmative action, which is described as “the policy of favoring members of a disadvantaged group who suffer from discrimination within a culture”.
70 per cent of the 11,521 jobs fall in Grade 1 and Grade 2, mostly done by Christians, while not a single non-Muslim is in Grade 22
“These measures of positive discrimination are always of a temporary nature and expire after a stipulated period of time, which is consistent with their goal of equalising communities: once this is achieved, the policy has fulfilled its purpose. The goal of affirmative action is therefore a process of reaching a state of fairness, not of permanently favoring one community over another,” stated the brief prepared by the National Lobbying Delegation for Minority Rights.
Pakistan is not alone in implementing such kind of affirmative action or positive discrimination. China, Canada, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Finland, France, Germany, Norway, Romania, Slovakia, the United Kingdom and the United States are also taking such measures to bring at par their disadvantaged communities.
Therefore, reservation or quota is related more to social hierarchical structures that Pakistan has inherited from the sub-continent culture. However, India has set up a whole Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment to end the millennia old caste-based injustice. Our founding father had alluded to these centuries old repressive social structures before the constituent assembly in his historic August 11, 1947 speech: “If you change your past and work together … no matter what relations he had with you in the past, no matter what is his colour, caste or creed… there will be on end to the progress you will make.”
In line with this policy, Article 205 of 1956 Constitution of Pakistan stipulated: “The federal and provincial governments shall promote, with special care the educational and economic interests of the Scheduled Castes and backward classes in Pakistan.” But in the coming decades, we failed to engrain this into the fabric of our social, political and economic structures, which has alienated religious minorities.
The Supreme Court of Pakistan has also ordered to adhere to the job quota in its landmark June 19, 2014 judgment: “Federal government and all provincial governments shall ensure the enforcement of the relevant policy directives regarding reservation of quota for minorities in all services.”
Uplifting religious minorities through the temporary means of job quota would remain an elusive dream if there will be no special measures taken to provide educational and professional training to them first.