Thar: A picture of negligence

Published: November 16, 2014
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What Thar needs are sustained development projects and alternate ways of livestock farming like small industries related to Thar’s environment. PHOTO: INP/FILE

Almost every year, Thar makes it to the headlines. Whenever metropolitans like Lahore, Karachi, Faisalabad or Peshawar face some kind of energy crisis, ministers begin using the idea of Thar coal reserves as a solution for the country’s never-ending energy issues. The government remembers Thar when it comes to coal reserves, but why does it conveniently turn a blind eye when the people of Thar die of hunger and famine?

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has been ruling Sindh since the past six year. Six years is enough time for a provincial government to understand, evaluate and solve issues like the drought in Thar – if it is able and competent that is. However, as we see every year, people keep dying and the PPP ministers have nothing to say. They do nothing and they say nothing, so of what use are they?

According to the United Nation World Food Program (UNWFP), the mortality rate of infants in Thar is 87 per 1000 children as compared to the national average of 69 per 1000. According to Chief of Sindh WFP, Aslam Khan, Thar lacks healthcare, education, communication and potable water and it needs government attention to initiate development projects to raise the living standard of the people.

However, the government seems least concerned, and Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah’s recent, insensitive statement that “deaths of children being reported in Tharparkar are largely on account of maternity-related complications and not of hunger or food” is proof of that.

What CM Sindh doesn’t understand is that malnutrition is the leading cause of complicated childbirth.

According to former physician of Hill Park General Hospital, Dr Ali Zaidi, the most risky condition that a woman can develop due to malnutrition is IUGR (Intra Uterine Growth Retardation) – where either the children are born still or they develop moderate to severe physical retardation. Lack of vaccinations, proper prenatal care and malnourishment are all causes of preterm babies becoming prone to infections.

Thar hasn’t had any rain since 2012 and this has made matters all the more worse; people have no water, the wells have run dry and there is no grass or green land for the cattle to graze upon. And on top of that, the Pakistan Meteorological Department has predicted that Thar won’t receive any rain in the coming season either. So what, exactly, is PPP planning to do about all this?

This is a socioeconomic problem which PPP could easily have tackled in its six-year-long rule (five of which they had federal power too) had the government done what it was supposed to do – provide a proper and sustainable water supply system.

According to Thardeep Rural Development Program (TRDP) the people of Thar are living below the poverty line, in extremely inhumane conditions. Livestock farming is the biggest source of income for the people of Thar, which is affected badly due to dry weather. During dry season, livestock migration towards fertile areas is the only way to save the cattle. But since the government has restricted the migration of animals – for unknown reasons – animals are dying from hunger.

Lack of planning and negligence by the government is the biggest cause of deaths in Thar.

Due to the absence of a local government system, the bureaucracy has shown its usual lacklustre response to this problem. The local administration has shown massive failure in delivering food and aid on time, despite our media blaring on and on about the suffering of the people.

Thar doesn’t need ration bags every year – especially not after 50 or so children die of hunger anyway.

The people of Thar don’t need temporary aid that rarely reaches them and caters for only a few.

What Thar needs are sustained development projects and alternate ways of livestock farming like small industries related to Thar’s environment. The reopening of Khokhrapar-Munabao trade route between India and Pakistan through Thar can create trade activities and employment for the people.

As Oxfam Pakistan explains, there is no famine in Thar but only inequality, ill-conceived economic policy, bad governance, and unfair distribution of resources and all this is because of the ad hoc style of democracy being practised in the area.

If the current Sindh government can spend lavishly on the Sindh festival and political jalsas in Karachi, then why can’t they mobilise the resources to counter the grievous situation of Thar? We, as a nation, celebrate Youm-e-Takbir Day, Kashmir Solidarity Day and al Quds Day but completely forget the reality that many of our areas, especially in the rural regions in Sindh, still lack basic facilities like clean water, proper shelter, basic health necessities and schools.

And for this, PPP is accountable.

Farheen.Rizvi

Farheen Rizvi

The author is a supporter of the MQM, has a Bachelors in business management from Iowa and a Masters degree in international management from the University of Maryland. She works for US based charities like IMHO and SUN while based in Virginia. She tweets @farririzvi (twitter.com/FarriRizvi)

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

  • Ovais

    Also MQM as well since they were part of this ppp government and never moved a motion against qaim ali shah. Also the governor is from mqmRecommend

  • Parvez

    Another attempt at shaming the shameless……… will not work but then just maybe……
    If I’m not wrong the PPP have been in power for some 18 years in Sindh…….but as you say even 6 years is a long time, if ‘ good ‘ was to happen.Recommend

  • Dajjal

    I wouldn’t call Thar a “Picture of Negligence” as much as a metaphor for PPP Doing what it does best…Recommend

  • khalid

    A good article which highlights the plight of the common people of Thar and insensitivity of the Sindh’s governmentRecommend

  • Hueshang Ansari

    The author has written a sterling article. And did her her due diligence.
    With the facts and statistics quoted. However, she should note that
    PPP has been ruling Sindh since the dinosaurs roamed the
    earth. Albeit under different manifestations and reincarnations.
    Since the party’s leadership
    refuses to let go of dead leaders legacies. And wants to wring every drop
    of mileage. Qaim Shah, CM of Sindh, has no interest in the welfare of Thar.
    He is the ideal persona of a corrupt malevolent politician Interested in lining
    his pockets in triplicate. Garhi Khuda Baksh is the flagship city of PPPwalas.
    It would be near pointless to mention that the majority of Tharis are Hindus.
    A minority with zero status or consequence in the Land of the Pure.Recommend

  • Dynamics

    Need to take up Israeli methods of desert land farming and installation of solar-power plants that would solve the urgent power crisis in Pakistan. But that would require shedding the age-old developed animosity between Muslims and Jews so that friendship with Israel can be established. I think, it’s time to look at the poor people of Pakistan and take decision pragmatically rather than dream about elusive Ummah (Heaven) for Muslims.Recommend

  • Mubeen Hussain

    PPP have done nothing in Sindh but Health Ministry was with MQM. Either take a ministry with full authority or leave it. This won’t work now!Recommend

  • Muhammad Ali Samo

    Six years in Pakistan does not make sense the completion of every task. Peoples are criticizing about poor performance of PPP in Sindh , somehow it is genuine but partially it is biased. Why PPP alone? We also should discuss Arbab Rahim’s tenure , He served facilitating so called Mohajirs other than his own constituency there at Thar, Five years of ARBAB-MQM nexus could not resolved all these long standing issues. One should be well aware about the subject prior to commenting and falsifying ground realities of Thar. Dr.Sagheer should be trialed as he has done nothing in health sector ,symbol of middle class representatives in Pakistan marginally have looted Public exchequer in the name health reforms. Since last 20 years MQM has enjoyed power of health sector , but result is visible if you see , we are dying in hospitals without proper arrangements of healthcare , Let the PPP give a significant time to complete ongoing projects. Its good that MQM is out from center and provincial governments.Recommend

  • Lt Col Imtiaz Alam(retd)

    Is this Democracy? They do not value life. Exploiting the Hari’s. This Govt should be fired & Governor”s Rule imposed. Sham Democracy.Recommend

  • Sane

    The worst enemies of Sindhis are Waderas and MNAs, MPAs whom they elect. If Sindhis do not change their mindset, nothing will change. They will always be ruled by these who believe in looting this province at the bottom.Recommend

  • Sane

    What a nonsense. What you are preaching is not the subject of discussion. Do you think methods and technologies from Israel is the only solution for Tharparkar? You want to have friendship with those who have a long history of hatred with Muslims and slaughtering them. Don’t you know what happened in Gaza few months back?!!!Recommend

  • Dynamics

    I don’t think that they have any problem with Muslims as long as they are not their neighbors, in fact they also do cut-off (circumcise) their genitals the same way like Muslims. Since they got business mind, they are likely to find Pakistan good place for investment and tech. transfer.
    Regarding solutions, never I seen any Pakistani speaking about solutions that are viable and rationale, if you got any then do speak up, you’re most welcome.Recommend

  • guest

    Sindhis have no choice for the most part, they are forced, manipulated and subjugated to give votes. These politicians and wadheras do not let any of them get education and with all the plotting keep them at bottom line poverty. If my child was dying because of thirst and someone was willing to give me a glass of water to give them a vote, I really would not think at that point. In my opinion, that’s why situation never improves in Thar because this poverty is used as a tool to get votes in every election.Recommend

  • guest

    All tosh!Recommend

  • Farheen Rizvi

    Are you really a man with heart? Who is doing politics in such human Atrocity ? MQM may be in ministry for few years, but Thar is like that since inception of Pakistan. Add the years of Zilfikar Bhutto’s , Benazir Bhutto’s and the last six years, then visit the areas under their rules for that long then do politics. Recommend

  • Waseem Haider

    Awesome article and I agree with author, PPP has failed or should I say badly failed in serving Sindh, and i wonder why people of Sindh trust them with their votes. Even their own towns R in such a bad shape . Rural Sindh needs change, either MQM or PTI. Recommend

  • Kashif Hasan Syed

    You are trying to absolve PPP of its responsibilities and giving justifications for the Sind government negligence by shifting the blame. On matter of health facilities CM Sind is on record stating “Mithi district hospital is the best one in the whole region after Karachi and Hyderabad”(Dawn 12 Nov ) . On matter of Dr Sagheer Sind government has every power to investigate any wrongdoing to set the record straight. Recommend

  • zeenat

    Thar is neglected there is no doubt about it. The PPP govt has made no effort to improve food reaching far reaching areas, no water reaches, no health care or education either. The PPP feudals tend to spend their time out of the country and Thari’s are treated like children of a lesser God. The fuedal system must stop and there should be an agricultural tax. These poor people will definitely not work for nothing . The wheat and sugarcane crops are already suffering. Please stop making excuses for the PPPRecommend

  • Farheen Rizvi

    PPP is ruling Sindh when MQM was not born on the page of Politics. Dont give justification for their failure. Recommend

  • Muhammad Bilal

    Zinda ha bhutto zinda ha lolRecommend

  • Zee

    What an absurd logic! A true jiala you seem to be. Recommend

  • ovais

    i am sorry girl , they are part of it, they voted for this cm and they are responsible , you can love ur MQM all u want but we hate both MQM and PPP for making Qaim Ali Shah CMRecommend

  • Taimoor Ahmad

    Ovais,
    Shame on such mentality who is politicizing a humanitarian issue, I guess you should visit the graves of those kids who died because of this famine or feel the pain by living there. Then I will see if u can politicize this failure of system by doing MQM or PPP.
    Thank you Miss Rizvi for raising the issue with facts and figures.Recommend

  • Kulwnt Singh

    The first thing to do is to abolish Zamindari a.nd land sealing otherwise nothing is going to change second the water of rivers be arrested by building dams and building canals which will save the people from floods and also provide drinking water to the people of Thar.Recommend

  • abubakar

    “They do nothing and they say nothing, ” why would they do anything? Recommend