September 2011 – Mirpurkhas was found in 1806 by Mir Ali Mohammad Khan Talpur. The word Mirpurkhas means, “The land of high Mirs.” In 90s this district gained the status of the head quarter of district Tharparkar. Later on 31 October 1990, the district was bifurcated into two districts: District Mirpurkhas and District Tharparkar. Afterwards, it was further bifurcated in two districts Umerkot and district Mirpurkhas.
It is popular both outside and within Pakistan for nice mangoes. In addition, this district is also popular for its center location which makes it gateway to UmerKot and Thar district.
Before one enters into the city, he/she has to see the grid station Mirpurkhas where we saw three feet water accumulated. According to local power supply authorities this grid station provides electricity to Sanghar, Mithi, Mirpurkhas and Umer Kot districts, if burnt or stop working, due to water accumulation, the supply of electricity to four districts mentioned above will be stopped. This will further affect the water supply to Mithi via Naukot. We did not see any Government effort for draining the water and saving the grid.
A lawyer and a civil society actor, Mumtaz Jarwar, who lives in Ali Town near Grid station was contacted for meeting and his views. He agreed to meet us. He invited us to his house which was surrounded by three feet water. We had to walk through the water to reach him. According to Mumtaz, he has not only informed the DCO about the situation but and requested him for help. Unfortunately, DCO and other authorities have not paid any heed to my cries. As a nonviolent protest, I am continuously sending him messages but he is not returning back to me.
RightsNow Pakistan Team Visit ‘Ali Town’ , a scene of Ali Town
Mumtaz does not see any alternative except to swim through this water every morning and reach the court building which itself is under water. Mumtaz said, “People are expecting justice from the court but who is going to do justice with the court? Who is going to drain water from the court building? “We went to the court and saw knee deep water was accumulated there. While visiting court premises, we also saw District Bar Mirpurkhas was surrounded by water and was not accessible for lawyers. “We lawyers are meeting at a local restaurant called Kefe-Sheeraz, for discussing issues related to cases and judiciary” shared by Kanjimal, a lawyer and civil society actor. He seemed very sad and disappointed from the district government and the State response and cursed elected representative, who according to him should be tried in the court for their criminal negligence and corruption.
Another lawyer, Mir Shehzad Ahmed Talpur, member of District Bar Mirpurkhas, who is playing active role in relief efforts in Mirpur khas shared about the corruption of NGOs, district administration and elected representatives, favoritism and luke warm response of civil society in the present situation. There are corruption before but in this disaster corruption, favoritism and discrimination has broken all records. We do not know who is distributing relief aid among deserving; we just know few people of ruling party are in charge and they are giving to their own people. Mir Shehzad also shared the story of a victim DDO who wanted to make distribution of relief aid fair.
Mumtaz Jarwar, Lawyer and District Bar Member
Mr. Zeeshan, DDO Mirpurkhas, who tried to distribute relief good in a fair way but his that act was not liked by the DCO Mirpurkhas. He was scolded by the DCO on the complaint of Pir Aftab Shah Jilani, PPP MNA because the beneficiaries of the relief aid were living in the Taluka Hussain Baksh Mari, constituency of his opponent which is causing political loss to pir. DDO Zeeshan was made an example for other officials who wanted to distribute aid stuff in fair way. DDO Zeeshan who thought to serve the rain hit and flood affected community is a best example and casualty of political war between PPP MNA Pir Aftab Shah and Zahid Mari whose brother won the Nazim seat of Taluka Hussain Baksh Mari despite the opposition of Pir Aftab Shah.
When displaced people were contacted and asked about the distribution process, they said, those who have political affiliations get the ration bags and tents. Those who are people of God are orphan and are punished for their lack of political association. We do not have any option except to put flag of political party particularly ruling party on our tents to get relief aid.
Some families got bags consisting of sugar, flour and other stuff shared that they were issued „Parchees‟ by the political people. Those parchees were taken to DCO office to receive the relief aid. Such practice shows that aid is being distributed to only those who belong to particular parties or groups.
Court Building Mirpurkhas
Those who could not get „Parchees‟ are without ration and they should look at sky for the help. This is power of the „Parchee‟ issued by political parties to their supporters.
Salah ul Din Panhwer, President District Bar Mirpurkhas, a supreme court lawyer, and Member Pakistan Bar Council called relief aid distribution a campaign for
coming elections. Bags of rations and tents are given as a bribe to those who either belong to Government party or those who have promised the support to the party in the coming elections. “If one promise of vote is saving us in this situation and facilitating our access to the resources then this deal is not expensive,” shared by a local head of village, who has shifted his loyalties from one political party to the Peoples‟ party.
There was a fighting between ruling party representatives over relief aid and everyone wanted big share from the stock to give it to their political supporters. This situation created problem for the District Coordination Officer (DCO) Mr. Ghulam Hussain Memon, whose appointment was made by Ms. Faryal Talpur, sister of Asif Ali Zardari. DCO Mirpurkhas intelligently devised a very good strategy to deal with the challenge. He asked all political representatives of the ruling party to nominate one representative to receive share from the relief aid. Mir Babu Talpur was appointed by Mir Munawar Talpur, Chaudhry Ashraf by Syed Ali Nawaz Shah, Ismail Narejo by Aftab Ali Shah. MQM also has influence in the
process and their representative is Raees Ahmed Khan is focal person for receiving relief aid from DCO office. Raees Ahmed‟s main focus is people of his own party; second he has flooded two Union Councils namely Daulat pur and Old Mirpurkhas with relief aid goods for two main reasons: one his own lands are there. Second Raees Ahmed Khan has friends in one of these two union councils who stand with him in time of difficulties.
Religious Organization Supports Displaced People in Floods
As far as role of religious parties/organizations is concerned, we observed they were playing active role in distributing aid and food to displaced people. They have installed camps in Mirpurkhas city and its surroundings where people are standing in line to receive aid material. We visited the camp installed by Jamat-ul- Dawa organized by Fallah Insaniat Foundation (FIF) where biryani was being distributed among displaced people. “Every day we cook 50-60 dags of biryani (cooked rice) and this is being done since last five days,” shared by Mr. Nisar Ahmed, local representative of Jamat-ul-Dawa. When we asked him about the criterion of distribution, he said, we share among widows, pregnant women, large families who do not have support and other deserving people recommended by the local community representatives and religious leaders. We also distribute by ourselves when we visit village and see people deserve. Deserving people are very obvious, their houses are submerged in water and they have come to sleep either on road or along the banks of canals and rivers. These people neither have places nor stuff for cooking.
A mobile clinic is reaching to people in remote areas of the district arranged by Jamat-ul-Dawa shared by their representative. They also showed us the picture and news published in daily Kawish about their boat saving people in Jhudo and other areas.
Who give them funds for supplying food and medicines to displaced people? We asked them. “We have philanthropist as our individual donors who support us. Our leadership is also in the field and participating in rescue and relief activities and supporting flood affected people.” He also shared about their medical services in Jamesabad and its surrounding. According to them, they do not discriminate against non-muslims, feed them and provide shelter to them. Currently they are supplying food in village Mohummad Ali Halepoto where out of 780 families majority is of non-muslims.
Jamat-ud-Dawa, a Pakistan based religious organization was banned by UN Security Council in 2008 on the strong plea of India supported by the United States. UNSC has declared it a terrorist outfit working against India and the west from Pakistan.
Commenting on what religious parties are doing in the flood affected areas a local businessman, shared that the Government should keep check on these religious parties. These religious parties might use this opportunity for recruiting people and spreading extremism. “I do not want to accuse all religious organization but there are few which are involved in terrorist activities.” However, Jamat-ud-Dawa is a banned organization but apparently they are doing good work in rain affected area and they have better image than NGOs.
“Thank to these religious organizations which are providing food to displaced people. Otherwise, corrupt NGOs, Government administration and elected representatives have eaten everything of us “shared by the head of a village living in the camp.
Criminal Elements, Thieves, cheaters, robbers, black-marketers and other criminal elements have also become active in these crises and trying to get advantage of the situation. There were incidents reported in Duhuan, Dhegan Rasti, Kot Ghulam Mohummad and other areas of the district. There were also reports that displaced people were fed toxic food and looted.
Child and Women Protection
No doubt recent rain and floods have hit everyone but women, children and elderly people are easy target of the disaster. There is often sharp rise in violence against women and children particularly for those who have lost their homes, separated from their parents and are living in the crowded camps or shelters.
Teenage girls, young women and separated children are at special risk of violence and abuse.
We asked children about their situation. Before they answer, an old woman around them shared that these children do not know who is responsible for their rights and care. What they are facing is their fate and they have inherited all these pains and miseries; they have to live with it. Nobody can change what they have got from God or what they are born with. We see big vehicles passing through this road but nobody stops here and asks us whether we have something in our stomachs. We are elders and we can survive and remain silent but these children cannot.
We asked about issues of women and children if reported in the camp. Male members said everything is ok but seems there are issues which are not being shared and reported. We strongly felt the need of NGOs working on the protection of women and children in and outside the camps. Most of the camps on the road side and inside were without fences. Physical security of people particularly women and children is important. There is need of educating and training women on abuse and saving themselves from it. There is need of forming women groups who take turn and take care of each other‟s children. Being in groups will give a woman time for rest and breathing space. These type of groups are essential for reporting abuses and domestic violence inside the camp. In such setting, there is need to spread awareness among women that they always go outside the camp accompanied by a family member or another woman. These women groups are also necessary for sharing and emotional support in post disaster settings. Such groups of women can play important role in informing their children calmly that they should tell right away if anyone tries to touch them inappropriately or tries to get them alone or bother them. These groups can also keep watch on their children
who receive thing or unexplained gifts or remain absent from the camp for a long time.
Role of NGOs in Flood
“This is a very good opportunity for NGOs to make money, buy plots, new houses and decorate their office with expensive furniture. More severe the disaster, more funds for NGOs: A local journalist commented on the role of NGOs in disasters.” He further shared that those who are working in NGOs here are those who have made NGOs source of their income. Their kitchens are being run by the money of relief aid by the money of poor people. They are giving share to everyone including donors, district administration and entertaining the perchees of elected representatives.
We interviewed Ms. Zahida Detho, head of an NGO called Sindh Rural Partner Organization (SRPO) based at Mirpurkhas. SRPO works on women empowerment and works in other districts of Sindh as well. She defended some of NGOs which are not corrupt and their work is making difference. However, she admitted the fact that some NGOs are involved in corruption which is common in every department and field in Pakistan. Zahida detho highlighted the role of few philanthropists who are playing very important role in disaster and supporting the displaced people in food and shelter. Commenting on access of displaced people to relief aid, she shared that influential people, be they journalist, NGOist, political parties, Zamindars, lawyers have access to the relief aid. Those who are without influence are suffering. On project, she said, those NGOs which are already partner of UN are getting projects or commitment for new projects.
Right To Food –Government has Wheat in Stock
We talked to someone from Government food department about availability of wheat in the stock. He shared that more than one hundred thousand mounds of wheat is available in the stock if not distributed in the public will be rotten and useless. According to him, this wheat Government should distribute among displaced people before it is spoilt. He mentioned that Nawab Yousif Talpur, local PPP leader, has suggested the government for selling it on half price.
Hospitals play important role in disasters, especially government hospitals, in mitigating people‟s pain, suffering and saving their lives. Their role in responding to disasters is crucial only if they are not sunk like civil hospital Mirpurkhas. Three feet water has gathered in front of the civil hospital making it almost inaccessible for the patients. Even the cardio ward is not accessible. Thanks to the donkey cart owner who is carrying patients from the hospital main gate to the hospital door. He
charges 20 rupees per patient which is a lot in normal circumstances but in such emergency people consider that service as blessing. District government of Mirpurkhas and elected representatives of ruling party could easily make such arrangement which could pick people from main gate and drop to hospital door. Shehzad, a shopkeeper shared that the District Government did not make transport arrangement for patients from the main gate to the hospital door which raise a doubt that district government might have given a contract to that donkey cart owner on commission. This is also a very good contract for them through which they can earn a handsome amount. May be due to that reason water gathered outside the hospital is not being drained. Farukh, who runs a state agency said, if District Coordination Officer seriously wants, he can easily get it drained. While visiting civil hospital, we observed people were very furious at ruling party and DCO for inefficiency, corruption and favoritism. At one place, people staged sit in and blocked main road connects Mirpurkhas Hyderabad. Their demands included fair distribution of relief things, drainage of water and action against corruption done by elected representatives and DCO together. At one place, we saw a banner saying, “Corrupt DCO should be sent home.”
Generally political parties and leadership are either late in reaching to the rain/flood affected areas or seem absent from the scene. However, it is heard that People‟s parties MNA from Mirpurkhas-Umerkot and husband of Ms. Faryal Talpur, is very active and engaged in relief and rescue work since last 107 days shared by his personal assistant. “We are day and night on roads and trying to find ways to support rain and flood affected people. One can see Mir Sahib traveling in the tractor trolley to those area where his vehicle cannot go.” His personal Assistant shared Mir Munawar Talpur‟s role in current disaster. Sain Baksh Wassan who has been with Mir Munawar since last three months shared that Mir
Munawar and his staff has not slept properly since the rains have started. He has been travelling from one place to other due to this flood. He is travelling all the time from Jhuddo to Mirpurkhas, from UmerKot to Degree to reach people and solve their problems. Mr. Wassan denied the fact that any elected representative is issuing perches for relief aid. “At least we are not issuing any perchee to anyone. We are helping everyone who is affected by the flood” he claimed. When we asked from people about Ali Nawaz Shah and Aftab Shah, they said Ali Nawaz Shah is living in Karachi with his family while Aftab Shah, we do not know. For Shamim Aara- Panhwer, people shared that she comes out of her house only when Chief Minister or PM visit is scheduled.
Reverend Ishaq M. Gill, Vicar In-charge at Rawat Memorial Church who is living in Ali Town near Iqbal Petrol pump is completely surrounded by water. Twenty five Christian families are also living in that compound have cut off from the road due to two to three feet water. Whether District administration or any elected representative have contacted them or offered them support. Reverend Ishaq shared that not to ask of support, they are even sending water from their areas to places where poor people like us are living. This water around us is not rain water. It is water which has been drained from Shah and Raja Sain House. DCO has erected a mud fence around the houses of rich people to save them and let us drown in the water. This Sunday we approximately 25-30 people including children, women and elder worshiped in this water. “When we approach elected representatives they say we are not your representatives. We have not won election by your votes.” Reverend Isaq said, they are right when they say this because now due to joint electoral system we do not know who our representative in the parliament is. Those who are elected in joint electorate system do not own us. We all are Christians in this compound that why we are not being contacted and asked for support. This feeling was found in Christian population who feels like they are second class citizen of the country. This is negation of what Article 25 of the Constitution of Pakistan has promised to whole nation that, ““all citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law.”
Besides, Pakistan is also party to the Convention against racial Discrimination and has ratified the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) which strictly prohibits the discrimination against anyone on the basis of color, caste creed and other grounds.
Reverend Ishaq-Ali Town Mir Shehzad Talpur-Lawyer
Mai Miran who got 100 rupees from Syed Qaim Ali Shah during his visit to Mirpurkhas
“Sain Asan Jee Purghore Lahu” Sir please take care of us. We need support. We need help. We have been displaced. Mai MIran came forward from the crowd of IDPs and shared that few days when Syed Qaim Ali Shah passed through this road. We stopped him and forced him to speak to us. Mai Meeran shared that Syed Qaim Ali Shah gave her 100 rupees when she asked him for help. “He does not know that 100 Pakistani rupees is not enough to buy one day meal for my family members, said Mai Meeran. Main issues which came out during our discussion with the
UNHCR Provided Tent to a Family
IDPs included food, medicine, employment, sanitation facilities and tents. “We really want to earn our own livelihood and do not want to depend on any NGO or Government official. We feel like we are beggar when we spread hands before everyone. Please support us getting an honorable source of earning and make our own lives” Allah Dino and Taj Mohummad said.
UN’s Delayed Response:
Why UN did not intervene timely? Its timely intervention could have saved what now has been completely destroyed. A journalist was very critical of the role of United Nations. UN knew the capacity of both the State and the Government of Pakistan but still it did not respond the crises. We admit that Pakistani Government was not permitting UN for intervention but after Government has allowed UN to intervene why it is still delaying. We are hearing that UN and INGOs have started assessment now. Why not UN and other INGOs did start the assessment earlier? Where were their contingency plans which are prepared ahead in response of such disasters? One stitch on time could have saved nine. Had UN, Government, INGOs, local NGOs responded collectively, could have saved many lives, loss of crops, houses and infra-structure.
Another point of view was that UN intervenes only when the Government is either failed or unwilling to respond in such situation. Displaced people, however, appreciated the role of international community and said that without their support they could have suffered even more. RightsNow Pakistan is of the view that UN‟s early and speedy involvement in current disaster was required for many reasons. First, UN know that Pakistan is an state engaged in different issues and it does not have capacity and will to deal with crises of such extent.
Second, Access to Humanitarian Assistance and Principle of Responsibility to Protect put obligations on UN to make timely intervention to save lives, properties and infrastructure. Principle 25 of the UN Guidelines on IDPs says, “When State authorities are unable or unwilling to provide assistance to the displaced, international organizations have the right to offer their services and to enjoy the unimpeded access to the displaced
Why Water is gathered in Mirpurkhas?
We asked the similar question from people belong to different walks of life and they responded in following way:
“Our corrupt district administration has eaten all resources of the district and not spending a single penny on the city and on the public infrastructure and DCO is head of the team.” Anonymous
“We have blocked the natural ways of water and in return water is flooding us.” A teacher
God will do that not the Government because God is running this country, a doctor.
While commenting on blocking the natural ways of water which drain rain and flood water, carry it all the way into the sea are blocked by encroachments made by powerful people who belong to different political parties. This issue was raised by most of the people. Most of the people in Mirpurkhas are blaming encroachment in the Puran (name of Nallah), lack of desilting of LBOD and diverting more water into LBOD than its capacity. These all factors have caused accumulation of water in the Mirpurkhas city, breaches in the LBOD which have resulted more destruction and displacement.
We received following responses from people when we asked them who has encroached the Puran from MIrpurkhas till Jhuddo.
Mir Shehzad Ahmed Talpur, a lawyer and civil society activists shared that MQM‟s local leader Mr. Aftab Qureshi has built his cotton factory and a bunglow in the Puran (Nalla) is blocking the drainage.
We visited the site and confirmed the fact. Both factor of Mr. Qureshi and Bunglow were there. When Puran (Nalla) takes water of Mirpurkhas and reaches Jhuddo, Kashmiri House built by Anwer Kashmiri and house of Dr. Hidayat Ullah Memon block the drainage of water to the sea. They both and many other who have followed them have built expensive houses in the puran and the district administration despite their efforts has failed to remove them. One individual, who requested anonymity, shared that Inayat Ali Shah is interference in the way of
water drainage to save his crops has also contributed in the destruction of Mirpurkhas. We also heard that Syed Qaim Ali Shah, Chief Minister of Sindh has strongly instructed the district administration and police for removing the encroachments. If these encroachments were not removed and Chief Minister did not honor his commitment made with the public. We will go to courts as a last resort, said by lawyers.
Performance of National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) & Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA)
Most of the people displaced or supporting displaced even does not know whether NDMA and PDMA exist. If they were there they could have shown their performance and prevented the destruction. These were their responsibilities. One Government employee on condition of anonymity shared that prevention of disaster or facilitation and coordination of relief aid is beyond NDMA and PDMA‟s capacity.
Instruction on a piece of paper by political party leader for giving 200 bags to a political worker
NDMA has failed to identify the needs of affected people and communicating to both the government and international community. We do not trust this institution. An NGO leader commented. Seems Government is also not committed with the institution and have just established it as a requirement. We are hearing about it but we have not seen it functioning on the ground. A media person shared his views on the performance of NDMA and PDMA in current disaster. One of the responsibilities of NDMA and PDMA is to monitor relief activities. Current stories of corruption and favoritism which have been confirmed and are no more secret shows the failure and inefficiency of NDMA and PDMA.
Immediate action should be taken against corrupt officials in district administration, NGOs and whoever is involved in the irregularities in relief aid.
Need to establish a robust mechanism which monitors the fair and just distribution of relief aid includes journalists, NGOs, Lawyers, religious leaders, farmers, students and civil society actors.
All encroachments blocking the puran (Nalla) should be removed immediately and action should be taken if anyone tries to block it illegally for his/her own benefit.
UN Guidelines on IDPs should be incorporated into Pakistani law and dealt as law of the land and respect should be shown for these guidelines.
IDP Protection Group need to be set up at every district level which includes UN, Government Officials, Police, NGOs, Lawyers and NGOs working on women, children protection.
End discrimination against IDPs and treat them equally.
Take steps to resolve problems faced by IDPs: Lack of food, tents, medicines, employment, inadequate facilities of the sanitation, education for children, psycho-social support and action against violence against women.
NDMA and PDMA should identify real needs of IDPs and communicate them to the government, donors, NGOs and other relevant actors.
IDP should be consultant in decision made for them.
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