It was an honour for me to be part of the group that accompanied Chief Justice Saqib Nisar to Tharparkar on Wednesday.
Tharparkar is one of the most disadvantaged regions of Pakistan, where poverty, hunger and fatal diseases are prevalent even over 70 years after Independence. Some of the highest mortality rates among mothers and newborns are reported in Tharparkar due to malnutrition and the unavailability of proper health facilities.
Even in our modern times, Tharparkar remains a backward region, where people’s greatest goal is to obtain access to clean water. Tharparkar’s rich cultural heritage is at stake due to the ignorance shown by the provincial government.
According to a recent report, around 77 Tharis committed suicide this year. Poverty is adding to people’s frustration. Animal carcasses are a familiar sight on the roads of Tharparkar. It is highly regrettable that even though the same political party has been at the helm in Sindh for a long time, Thar was never part of its priorities.
Hailing from Tharparkar, I have observed that whenever attempts are made to bring the plight of Thar’s residents to the attention of the higher authorities, false claims are presented. Thar’s people can now see a ray of hope after the chief justice took notice of the crisis in the desert region.
I appeared before the chief justice during every hearing of the case for the sake of Thar’s people, and made it a point to present the ground realities to the Supreme Court.
However, representatives of the provincial government tried their best to mislead the court by presenting unrealistic claims. According to the Sindh chief secretary, the Sindh government, in collaboration with civil society organisations, also arranged medical camps for Tharis, which were attended by around 81,000 people. Interestingly, the purpose of this initiative was not to provide healthcare, but to understand the nature of the crisis and the health conditions of women.
That is why the chief justice had to visit Thar and witness the situation on the ground. Much has been reported in the media on how beds were arranged on an urgent basis at hospitals.
The presence of plants with fresh flowers in a water-scarce area raised some questions. During our visit to Mithi Civil Hospital, I brought the dire needs of the emergency ward to the chief justice’s attention. He also asked how the hospital will cater to the needs of patients in the event of an emergency as there were no medicines were available at the facility.
The chief justice also agreed to visit Diplo tehsil. The delegation was shocked to observe the poor conditions at Koreo Thakur. There was not a single student present at the local school. During our visit to a hospital, we were informed that the X-ray machine had been out of order for the last 10 years and no medical laboratory at the facility was functional.
The situation of Tharparkar is beyond the control of Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, and he has been unable to do much. The performance of the Sindh government is also called into question when we consider that Rajasthan, a major portion of the Thar Desert, contributes a great deal towards India’s economy. If the region bears so much potential, then why are the people of Thar forced to live under miserable conditions?
The CJ’s visit will endorse the view that the solution to Thar’s crisis is to prepare long-term policies. The implementation of these concrete policies will enable Tharparkar to emerge as the capital of religious harmony, faith tourism and cultural activities. In this way, Tharis will also play an active role in national development.
The chief justice should ask the federal and provincial governments to formulate an action plan for Thar prior to his retirement. The people of Thar will always be grateful for that.
The writer is a member of the NationalAssembly and patron-in-chief of the
Pakistan Hindu Council.
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