Lahore: A Lahore Waste Management Company (LWMC) public service advertisement has highlighted systemic discrimination suffered by the Christian community of the country. The ad – that appeared in national dailies over the weekend – requested residents to avoid throwing waste on streets and open spaces on September 9 and 10 ‘as the Christian community is observing their annual pilgrimage of Mariamabad’. It asked residents to not throw garbage on streets on those two days because sanitary workers were away on leave. Researcher Asif Aqeel said the ad was meant to give out an advance warning to the public. He said it could have been more offensive if the company had not made it a point to wish the Christian community on the occasion as well. “It would have been offensive if they would have just said that sanitation work will remain suspended because the workers were busy with their religious festival,” he said. Aqeel said that the ad had had brought to limelight the history of discrimination suffered by the community. “Why has one particular community been associated with the profession? Why is the derogatory term churra synonymous with Christian in Pakistan,” he asks. These are questions on which Aqeel has conducted extensive research as well. He said that the issue was related to the social institution of caste that has existed in this region for thousands of years. With the onset of British colonial administration, though, untouchables in India had converted to Christianity en masse, he said. In Punjab, they were employed as wage labourers and helpers on farms owned by Sikhs. On partition, most of these Sikh landlords migrated to India, leaving these Christians – approximately around 330,000 in number – out of employment as these farms got allotted to Muslim migrants from East Punjab. Aqeel’s research shows that the government had deliberately pushed these Christians into sanitation jobs left vacant by the migration of low-caste Hindus. He said the low-status accorded to the profession as well as its association with a particular community were problems needing immediate attention. Speaking to Daily Times, LWMC media spokesperson Umair Ali said it would be incorrect to read the ad as suggesting that garbage should be disposed of at designated places only on two days and that it was fine to throw garbage on streets otherwise. “We run awareness raising campaigns around the year,” he said. The spokesperson that around 70 percent of the sanitation workers were from the Christian community. He said this overwhelming majority of Christians was not because of any policy of the company. Published in Daily Times, September 12th 2017.