Hospital in Lahore forces minority paramedics to recite Quranic verses to retain employment
14 May 2017
Lahore: May 14, 2017. (Shamim Masih) Paramedic staff at a Government run hospital in Lahore have been forced to recite Quranic verses daily or face losing their employment.
The strict religious policy has also been thrust upon non-Muslims to the chagrin of a large number of Christian employees. Any employee who fails to attend the Islamic recitations has been marked as absent resulting in loss of a days earning despite attendance on the shift.
The Government Mian Mir Hospital which is named after a Muslim saint has 130 beds and is run by the City District Government of Lahore. The hospital is situated in the constituency of the Speaker for National Assembly Sardar Ayaz Sadiq a leading politician. On the 11th April 2017 Mr Sadiq was speaking about the role of the UN in protecting equal rights, he said that the UN was 'yet to live up to it's charter' (click here).
Unfortunately for Christian employees Mr Sadiq did not look much closer to home when discussing matters of equality. Article 25 of the Pakistan constitution states:
Article: 25 Equality of citizens
25. Equality of citizens.— (1) All citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law.
Even more specifically Article 27 of Pakistan's constitution states:
Article: 27 Safeguard against discrimination in services
27. Safeguard against discrimination in services.— (1) No citizen otherwise qualified for appointment in the service of Pakistan shall be discriminated against in respect of any such appointment on the ground only of race, religion, caste, sex, residence or place of birth:
On 2nd May the hospital's Medical Superintendent Dr Muhammad Sarfraz allegedly slapped a Christian paramedic for missing the recitation. In response to the physical attack all the paramedical staff joined a protest against the actions of Dr Safraz. The protest was so large it caused the closure of all the functions of the medical facility.
Mr. Faisal Parvez sanitary worker at the hospital told the BPCA that Dr Safraz verbally abused the head of sanitary team a Christian named Mr Marshal and told him to make sure all his team attend the morning recitations. He said: "Dr Safraz is very rigid with his faith and wants to force all of us to convert to Islam."
Dr. Zeeshan Tariq advised that other then the demand to attend prayers all staff members are working in harmony. He said:
"Both Muslims and Christians are working together to serve humanity in a professional way. Though most lower staff belong to the non-Muslim community we love them and treat them as our fellow workers."
Another paramedical staff member of the medical facility, Fahad Ahmed a Muslim, said: "It is professional workplace; I don't know why the administration is forcing our Christian brothers to recite the Quran. This is totally unacceptable."
A paramedic urged relevant authorities to thoroughly investigate the matter and "question the Dr Safraz over the incident".
Medical Superintendent, Dr Muhammad Sarfraz was unavailable for comment.
However the Pakistan High Commission have advised the BPCA that a high-level committee has been formed to look into the matter and a strict departmental inquiry would be initiated against anyone found guilty.
This clear act of prejudice and subjugation of Christian flies in the face of comments made by the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif on Easter day.
In a communique he noted the role Pakistan’s Christian community has played in the development and progress of the country. PM Nawaz Sharif, said:
"We deeply appreciate and are indebted to their valuable contributions and services towards our collective national objective of securing a truly strong, progressive and stable Pakistan,”
He added: “It is our moral and national obligation to protect the constitutional rights of Christians, and all other minorities living in Pakistan, as enshrined in our Constitution.”
Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association, has raised his concerns about the treatment of Christians and other non-Muslims with the High Commission of Pakistan in the UK, he said: "In many ways we believe the current Government of Pakistan have moved forward the process of equality in their nation.
"However, steps like anti-forced marriage laws and stronger more visible interfaith harmony projects will have a limited effect in the short term.
"The abuse of power by a zealot at Mian Mir Hospital cannot be blamed on the Government or statutory bodies, however their actions in response to the evident fundamentalism that is making the lives of Christians a misery will illustrate their true desire for reform."
"We will be monitoring this situation and pray that those in power make strong decisions that will ensure the working environment for Christians at the hospital is safe, free of bullying and emphasises equality."