Pakistan: Human Rights group demands legislation to protect minorities from religious persecution at workplace

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Faisalabad [Pakistan], November 23: Human Rights Focus Pakistan (HRFP) has demanded justice for Mehwish Iram and Irfan Tariq Masih, who belonged to the Christian minority and faced religious persecution at their workplaces.
According to the allegations, Mehwish was harassed and blackmailed, while Irfan was subjected to violence.
“HRFP is raising and concerned on growing incidents of discrimination, violence and harassment of minority employees at workplaces. Even in high profile jobs, like Shaukat Masih a deputy Commissioner of Jaranwala faced discrimination, he got attacked on August 16, 2023, and his house was burnt but he escaped with his family,” the release stated.
HRFP cited multiple case studies and said that there are a number of examples that have faced the “biased behaviours of employers” due to their belief and religious discrimination and with personal grudges by co-workers many have been victimized.
Like, Samina Mushtaq, an airport security officer of Karachi was threatened and accused of blasphemy on January 5, 2023, when she stopped her co-worker from doing anything illegal.
The two nurses, Neush and Mariam belonging to Faisalabad were accused of blasphemy on April 8, 2021, at the hospital of Faisalabad during duties. Tabitha, another nurse of Karachi was accused of blasphemy and subjected to violence in Karachi on January 28, 2021, in the hospital where she works, the release stated.
HRFP further emphasised that in the cases of lower-grade jobs, most of the issues don’t come to record as the employers, co-workers, and consumers keep minority workers under pressure.
The Christian, Hindu, Sikhs, Ahmadiyya and other minorities have been victimized in different ways, like accusing them of blasphemy and sexual harassment; the theft allegations are the most common among minority employees at minor jobs places, HRFP case studies revealed.
Christian girl Mehwish Iram and Christian boy Irfan Masih are the victims of the same, theft allegations with harassment, forced conversions and threats as well. Mehwish was accused of theft of Pakistani Rupees (PKR) 1,00,000 cash and stealing PKR 2,00,000 worth of valuables like a hair colour machine and other items like gold ornaments from a beauty salon and attached home, the release added.
HRFP further highlighted multiple examples from its case studies that if a Christian employee starts to grow up in their career, then the co-workers try to depress them.
In Shaukat Masih’s case in the context of the Jaranwala issue, there are some videos on social media where the Islamic clerics are saying openly that, “how a Christian could be deputy commissioner, so being Christian he has to clean toilets only.”
In several cases, HRFP observed, that the employees belonging to minority communities, who refused to do the task, had not been stated in job descriptions, have been expelled from jobs or accused of false allegations against them.
Mehwish Iram who just resigned and left the beauty parlour’s job on June 28, 2023, for a better opportunity, the employer threatened her. As she started a new job in another salon on July 5, 2023, the previous employers Muhammad Usama and Muhammad Yousaf accused her of theft on July 9, 2023, while she was being harassed before, one of the reasons for quitting job.
Mehwish Iram was arrested but she got bail on September 30, as she was found non-guilty on the charges of theft. But, Iram is still facing harassment and even the former employees have distributed her pictures in the area’s parlours to identify her and not give her the job opportunity, the release stated.
In Irfan Masih’s case, he faced religious discrimination and was subjected to violence for quitting his job. On May 18, 2023, a landlord Athar Bukhari complained to police about stealing their valuables. Bukhari alleged Irfan for stealing 8 tola gold (93.6 grams) from their house and not coming more from April 12, 2023. After the FIR on August 12, 2023, police arrested Irfan Masih. On August 25, 2023, Irfan Masih got bail as non-guilty, but the case is still in court trials.
HRFP team fact findings in both cases collected the information and evidence that the cases are based on their religious persecution. Both families have visited the HRFP office and shared their stories and needs.
HRFP is providing possible assistance for them and the situation in which they are in. Mehwish’s mother and Tariq Masih, father of Irfan Masih shared with HRFP that they are innocent and the violations against them are because of their Christian faith and belief, the release further stated.
Mehwish Iram is a mother of two and her husband Salamat Masih had died before. Her case is in a court trial, but she is under threats to step back and compromise what they wanted from her.
Naveed Walter, the President of Human Rights Focus Pakistan (HRFP) said that it’s a common practice in which people belonging to minorities are falsely accused of theft, blasphemy allegations, subjected to violence and harassed.
Only a few of them are taken to the police, and courts for legal proceedings but most of the time the accused compromise with their employers. When the victims forcefully convert to Islam and the females face sexual abuse at workplaces, this kind of discrimination and violation doesn’t register in most of the cases, HRFP added.
Naveed Walter has also demanded for the legislations and implementations, that the laws should be practised, and the legal actions should be taken in minority employee’s cases at workplaces.

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