Shahzada Irfan

Punjab Vocational Training Council (PVTC) is an autonomous government body that imparts technical and vocational skills to underprivileged youth at its 210 institutes across the province. The centre not only provides the training for free but also offers stipends for trainees.

However, a major issue that had been hindering the free-flow of training was the exclusion of minorities as trainees, thereby fueling their poor socio-economic status. Despite training thousands since its inception in 1998, PVTC has been restrained from spending funds on non-Muslims as its operations are financed by Zakat — a religious tax which can be spent on Muslim’s only.

Recently, PVTC stakeholders joined their heads together to correct this anomaly so the already marginalised religious minorities could also benefit from their work.

What transpired was a project titled “Socio Economic Support for Minorities through Special Grant” which was launched with a grant approved by the Punjab Planning and Development Department in collaboration with the Punjab Human Rights and Minorities Affairs Department.

Under the Rs100 million project, 1,000 deserving youth from religious minorities were enrolled in training programmes in leading national industries in the districts of Gujranwala, Faisalabad, Sialkot, Gujrat and Multan.

PVTC Publications and Marketing Manager Bushra Nawaz shared that 69% of their beneficiaries are young women, adding that they also receive a Rs2,000 per month stipend.

Fauzia, a beneficiary of the project, informed that she was doing menial jobs at people’s houses when, while attending church one day, she heard about the possibility of undertaking a beautician’s course and that too for free.

An abandoned housewife, today, Fauzia is working at a beauty parlour and is hopeful for her future. There are many like her who are being trained as paramedics, technicians, and workers for various industries such as textile, food and hospitality.

PVTC Chairman Shahnawaz Badar explained that this project is primarily for the Christian community but the council plans to launch a vocational and technical training project for the Sikh community in Nankana Sahib as well.

He added that since Zakat funds cannot be used for the purpose, they will approach the Evacuee Trust Property Board — which manages the properties and religious places of Hindus and Sikhs abandoned at Partition — to discuss how to arrange funds.

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