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District council in Pakistan says only Christians should do menial sweeping jobs in hospitals


15 February 2019

Only Christians should work as low-paid hospital “sweepers”, not Muslims, according to a resolution passed by the Swabi District Council in northern Pakistan, local sources reported in January.

If the resolution is passed into law it would mean Christians will replace all Muslims currently holding menial janitorial jobs in Swabi, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Muslims would then be given more desirable work.

Caption
A Christian street sweeper in Lahore, Pakistan. Street sweepers and other menial workers are despised as among the lowest in society

The resolution appears to be in clear violation of Article 27 of the Pakistan Constitution, which states: “No citizen …  shall be discriminated against in respect of any such appointment on the ground only of race, religion, caste, sex, residence or place of birth.”

Christians are despised by the majority-Muslim population in Pakistan and often contemptuously referred to as “sweepers” or Chuhra as a term of derision.

Western missionaries brought Christianity back to the Punjab region from around 1850. The first mass conversions in the 1870s, mainly though evangelism by Punjabi Christians, were among the most despised members of Punjab society, the “untouchable” people who formed the lowest level of society. The Chuhras had observed a religion that was a kind of Islamized Hinduism and carried out dirty and unpleasant menial jobs, such as street sweeping, working in sewers and latrine cleaning. The majority of the Christian population in Pakistan today are descended from the Chuhra and are seen as inferior and “unclean”.