Would the PPP leaders care to explain why people in Thar are dying?

Published: November 4, 2014

It was revealed in the second week of October that around 300,000 bottles of mineral water – meant for the drought victims in Thar – expired in a government warehouse without ever reaching the masses. Earlier this year, wheat supplies for the Thar victims faced the same fate. At least 31 lives were lost in October and 234 more, mostly children, in the preceding episodes.

A report revealed that the district administration of Thar was in the hands of Makhdoom Amin Fahim’s son earlier this year. Fahim happens to be the senior vice-chairman of Pakistan Peoples Party. So is PPP not responsible for the Thar mismanagement?

An inquiry commission formed to probe the handling of the drought back in April claimed that the Sindh Health Department and elected representatives of the area were to be blamed for the Thar fiasco. All of them also belong to the PPP. Even with so many people dying, the party just doesn’t seem to learn. In fact, it just doesn’t care how its negligence is becoming more and more fatal.

Where was PPP when people were dying in its own constituencies last month?

Let’s rewind and take a quick look.

With the all important Karachi jalsa – a jalsa meant to introduce our ‘beloved’ Bilawal to the political arena – obviously the party leaders had better things to take care of. Keeping aside the fact that this jalsa failed miserably, Bilawal and the rest of the PPP leadership failed to elaborate on any plans the party intended to work on, to deal with the situation in Thar.

And why would they?

After all, death in Thar is hardly new.

It’s not as tantalising as blaming other parties for the on-going crises. Don’t trouble trouble until trouble troubles you? Over a 1000 people have died in Thar in the last couple of years – but so what? Just because the media made a little racket this time doesn’t mean the PPP’s priorities are suddenly going to change. Obviously.

So what was worth mentioning in the jalsa then?

Well, we had our ever-loved Bhuttos for one. Bhuttoism for another. Buzz words like shahadat, jamhoriat and a little bit of Bhuttoism again. Sprinkle some “causes” that you never did anything about when you were in power on top and viola! Behold, the glorious PPP leadership of today.

In his speech, Bilawal took credit for the PPP responding to the Hazara-Shia sit-ins in Quetta and sacrificing their government in the province for their cause. But what he didn’t mention is how corrupt his government was in the province, how appointments were made on nepotism and how one of their MNA’s protested against his own party.

Syed Nasir Ali Shah, the Hazara MNA from Quetta, staged a sit-in at the entrance of the Parliament House in October, 2011. He belonged to the PPP and resorted to protesting against his own party after 14 Hazaras were gunned down in Quetta, and no action was taken by the government.

Nawab Aslam Raisani was the chief minister of the province then, the tribal head of the Raisani tribe, and influential in Mastung – yet he did nothing. Mastung, coincidentally, houses the biggest Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) seminary in Balochistan and witnessed numerous attacks on Shia pilgrims – yet he did nothing. The Hazaras refused to bury their dead in order to protest – yet he did nothing.

The one thing he did do, and which was also one of his first steps after taking oath as CM Balochistan, was to appoint Nawabzada Humayun Jogezai as chief of police in Quetta. Jogezai, often accused of having links to the LeJ, in the past ordered the police to open fire on Hazara protesters, killing 25. He is Nawab Raisani’s son-in-law, in case someone didn’t know. Coincidentally, Hazara killings picked up after he was appointed. Such was the state of Balochistan under the PPP.

In fact, the ‘sacrifice’ the PPP government gave to the Hazara community, which Bilawal boasted about in his speech, wasn’t the party’s first course of action. Initially, the PPP chief minister proposed to settle the Hazara mourners’ issue by sending them truckloads of tissue papers. PPP’s tissue paper strategy (read: utter negligence) worked for a couple of years until, finally, protests broke out throughout the country and the ‘tissue papers’ ran short. That was when the prime minister – also belonging to PPP – rose from his slumber and took notice of the situation.

Once PPP made the ‘ultimate’ sacrifice and removed its government, a couple of peculiar incidents took place. One PPP minister, Ali Madad Jattak, was arrested with 15 guards because the Hazaras had complained that he had ties with a “defunct militant group”. Rumour was that the guards were LeJ men. Alamdar Road witnessed two blasts – one was a suicide blast inside a snooker club and the second was a more deadly one from an explosive laden car. In February, the Hazaras were targeted again, this time an explosives-filled water tanker was used.

Later in the year, FC recovered 104,480 KGs of explosives from a warehouse in Quetta, the largest find of its kind in the country’s history. The officials described the warehouse as a “car-bomb factory” complete with mixers, detonators, remote controls and lots of other explosives to fit into vehicles. Coincidentally, the car-bomb factory belonged to a PPP leader who was later arrested.

Clearly, PPP has done a marvellous job in Balochistan.

Coming back to Thar, is it a coincidence that Bilawal’s speech was oblivious to the droughts and deaths over there? Did he not know what was happening in this part of his province? Sindh has remained underdeveloped since partition, because we have had no resources. While the media has been quick to highlight Bilawal’s speech as an exclusive event, not many have questioned his lack of empathy towards the people of Thar. Perhaps, there are quite a lot of PPP apologists in our media industry.

In his interview after the October 18th jalsa in Karachi, Bilawal claimed that 60% of Pakistan’s population is young, and so is he. Therefore, he can relate to them more than any other leader in Pakistan.

Yes, he can relate to the youth about just as much as Justin Bieber can.

A billionaire kid who has lived most of his life outside Pakistan, who doesn’t even know the language, believes he can relate to a country where, according to World Bank, 60% of the population lives under the international poverty line, more than anyone else – all because he is young?

The level of delusion is staggering.

So while the young prince lives in his bubble, relating to his darbaris in the party and the media, where does that leave the people? With death and hunger, of course. Those are the gifts the party has brought to their people. Thar and the Hazaras are but just a glimpse.

Consider that all over Pakistan, 6,126 lives have been claimed by suicide bombings so far. On the other hand, we have PPP’s governance in which by 2011 over 7,000 people were killed in Karachi alone. Such was the level of interest this party possessed in alleviating the crime rate in their own province.

Hunger is the bigger hallmark here though. Shortage of food and malnourishment is not just an issue in Thar; it persists throughout Sindh to a disgraceful extent. In Ethiopia the stunting rate for children is 51%, in Eritrea it is 44%, in Sudan 40%. In Sindh it is 56.7% and within the loyal PPP stronghold of rural Sindh, it’s 63.3%.

One wonders how long it’ll take for PPP to understand this.

Ali Ahmed

Ali Ahmed

A student, a freelancer, a Lahori stuck in Islamabad. Ali tweets @SkyisNeela

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • whatever

    No. They dont care to explain. How dare you ask them? Marsun marsun kashmir aur sindh na desun. Bhutto bhutto blah blah blah.Recommend

  • Maximus Decimus Meridius

    Your blog is well written and well researched, but that makes me ask you. Dear Sir! are yo not well aware of Bilawal and his ilk? they do not care for ordinary citizens. Ask anyone who lives in rural sindh and you will realize that most of the vote bank of PPP and Baby Bhutto is coerced into voting by their landlords and feudal rulers.
    PPP does not have to do anything, they have reached the point when they dont even want to “show” that they care. They are like the mafia now.
    Your last sentence is very catchy. I would like to say that PPP will never realize or understand this, they will continue to bleed our country dry.Recommend

  • Jade

    People are dying in Thar because Bhatto is still alive (Bhatto ab bhi zinda hay). This is the way that the PPP governs. Nothing surprising or shocking there.Recommend

  • Jade

    People are dying in Thar because Bhatto is still alive (Bhatto ab bhi zinda hay). This is the way that the PPP governs. Nothing surprising or shocking there.Recommend

  • Parvez

    GOOD…..as a matter of fact, more than good.
    Bilawal’s political birth has proved to be stillborn……while the PPP-Z has crumbled into a state of advanced atrophy.
    Digressing a bit – all PTI needs to do is ask for the Sindh vote and ensure the polls are not rigged or stolen….and they will win Sindh because the PPP-Z chose to lose it.Recommend

  • Daniaal

    Yes they’d say: Marsoon, Marsoon…Sindh Na DessoonRecommend

  • Parvez

    That was good…….very good.
    Bilawal’s political birth was stillborn……and the PPP-Z’s future is atrophying with little hope revival.
    To digress a little – the PTI has simply to ask the Sindhi for his vote and if the polls are not rigged or stolen the PTI will win because the PPP chose to lose it.Recommend

  • Fareed Khan Afridi.

    Here is a another fact. A significant percentage of the people
    in Thar are Hindus. Does that have any bearing? Of course it
    does! The minorities in this country get treated worse than dogs.
    The wheat in the warehouse, 60,000 bags, meant for drought
    victims did not “expire” as the author writes. Nor did the ‘mineral’
    water. The wheat was stolen and sold in the open markets. All
    over Sindh. The bottled water simply disappeared! Sold.
    The excuse given by Qaim Shah CM of Sindh for all this : They could
    not find transporters to haul it to Thar ! There was a committee formed
    to investigate. Of course people have short memories. Nobody followed
    up. A very smooth piece of robbery, by Sindh Govt. Slick ! In front of
    your eyes to boot ! Money for wheat and water,..from the Federal Govt.
    Should we go into 3000 ‘ghost schools’. Fully staffed, everyone drawing
    salaries. Right down to the Chaprassi. But these schools don’t exists !
    They are all in Sindh.Recommend

  • Queen

    Very well written blog. Before answering the question regarding the plight of the people of Thar, the PPP leadership should provide details of what it has done so far to bring progress and development in the interior areas of Sindh like Khairpur, Jamshoro, Sukkur. What projects have been launched in last six years since PPP has been in power in Sindh? It is very easy to say “marsoon Marsoon Sindh na desoon” but what about efforts on the ground? I hope ET you publish this comment.Recommend

  • Maximus Decimus Meridius

    Yes. You are absolutely right. It is not only incompetence it is full fledged corruption.Recommend

  • Sane

    One must realize that PPP is no more interested in politics. The purpose of them being in politics to milk this country. Now, this country has dried out and nothing is left. Leftovers are being eaten by PML-N and after that there would be nothing left. Both have a common objective to lot this country to add in their wealth more and more and they have done to its last.

    They do not need to be in government anymore. So, PPP and PML-N both are least concerned as what is happening in this country.Recommend

  • guest

    Loved your article…oh now I get it!!! Peoples Party does not care how many poor/innocent children died and dying inTHAR but thy’d say their naara, you know what I mean? marsoon marsoon blah blah blah. God these people are not even god-fearing. The CM is old enough to count his days instead of lying…how can somebody be so heartless…I wonder, being a muslim????Recommend

  • Mevian Myselfov

    A Lahori Stuck in Islamabad…… The thing is that Makhdooms are corrupt beyond comprehension. They have long benefited from Makhdoom Muhammad Zaman Talib-ul-Mola’s name. Zardari is definitely trying to alienate them but it will surely take some time. Makhdoom Jameel ,son of Makhdoom Amiin Fahim, is the Minister of Rehabilitation (Sindh), thus Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) falls under his jurisdiction. But I have heard there has been a regime change in PDMA and they are working tirelessly to reach the calamity beforehand. And any thing can be represented in two ways lets take these water bottles for example. We should be thankful that expired water bottles weren’t distributed because they probably didn’t arrive at the warehouse right AFTER the “drought” but actually were there since a long time.Check the manufacturing date and the expiry date of a water bottle next time. And anyway a little bit of bad publicity will surely turn people head from the crisis in Islamabad. Don’t you think? Sindhi people still remember the SZAB’s speeches and that is the only reason why they elect these morally corrupt people. (They vote for the teer not the man you will win the seat ). As a voter-to-be I have no idea who to vote.Recommend

  • Fareed Khan Afridi.

    You are conjecturing. Guessing, making assumptions. Whether the
    water bottles arrived before the drought, or how long they were at
    the warehouse. People, specially women, walk miles to get to a well
    to fill up their pots with water. And then juggle it all back to the abode,
    hut, shack. Do you know how time consuming that is? And at this point
    in time, the manufacturing date and expiration date, are not much of a
    going concern, are they? So please, keep the sanctimonious attitude
    where it belongs.Recommend

  • Sane

    Yesterday’s report by PPP MPA, Manzoor Wasan states that main cause of hardships of Thar people is Sindh Govt. The Qaim Ali Shah govt. is part of the problem itself, how they can come with the solution.Recommend

  • lala

    If anyone still supports PPP, they are obviously idiots of the greatest kind.Recommend