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Poor Pakistani Christian Families Face Slum Evictions Across Islamabad

Poor Pakistani Christian Families Face Slum Evictions Across Islamabad

Christians only make up around 1.5 percent of the total population in the central Punjab region, yet their representation in sanitation work is over 80 percent, an October article in Pakistan's The Friday Times said.

The report detailed the long history of displaced Christians in Pakistan, pointing out that many believers come from an "untouchable," or lower caste background, plagued by unemployment and homelessness.

Government evictions have targeted such Christians on a number of occasions, including a policy in 1952 that left nearly 300,000 Christians homeless and on the verge of starvation.

"After being internally displaced, the only option these 300,000 Christians had was to move to cities and work as sweepers, the jobs that were already waiting for them. Over the years, they migrated to metropolitan areas where they illegally settled on government land without any basic amenities: giving birth to hundreds of illegal settlements from France Colony in Islamabad to Joseph Colony in Lahore," stated the article, written by social researcher Asif Aqeel, as part of his Post-Partition Mass Displacement and Subsequent Illegal Settlements of Punjabi Christians in Pakistan thesis.

It further accused authorities of pursuing caste-based policy to force Punjabi Christians into low-level jobs, despite Pakistan stating before the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2008 that the Muslim-majority country "does not have the concept of Dalit… it is free from such kind of prejudices, and the existing norms do not contain discrimination on the basis of caste or creed."

Aqeel concluded by calling on state policy to be reviewed and for the government to "take extra measures to mitigate the disadvantage caused to poor Christians over decades."

English-language Pakistani paper DAWN called the CDA's initiative against Christian slums a "Donald Trump moment," referring to the Republican presidential candidate's call to ban Muslim arrivals to America.

"Even without the icing of anti-Christian bigotry, parts of the report appear to have been ripped straight out of the diary of a stereotypically-elitist Islamabadi adolescent, curling his nose at the gross abundance of mud-huts; all forming an unsightly dark patch in an otherwise shining city, as seen from the romantic viewpoints of Pir Sohawa," the publication describes the controversial order.

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