Pakistan’s Christian Flood Victims Face Religious Discrimination

by | Aug 10, 2011 | Charisma Archive

Pakitan floods
In this photo taken July 26, Pakistani children fetch water in a camp where hundreds of people displaced by last years’s flooding live. (AP Images/B.K. Bangash)

Many Christians living in the
southern belt of Pakistan’s Punjab Province who lost their houses in
last year’s floods remain homeless despite a plan by the Punjab
government to allocate land to residents in the area, area Christians
said.

Hameed Masih, a resident of Kot Addu in Muzaffargarh
district, said the provincial government has not set a quota for
granting of land to members of minority communities left homeless by the
devastating floods that began in late July 2010.

 The
government has begun four plans in Kot Addu under which around 435 plots
of five marlas (151 square yards) each were to be distributed among
people who lost their property. Several people were allotted land last
month, but so far no minority member has been given land, he said.

“Christians in this area are not rich people,” Masih said. “They lost
their houses and lands in the floods and should have been given a 5
percent quota in the scheme. Flood victims could have been easily
accommodated, but the quota system has not been followed, and thus no
minority member has been allotted land.”

 Aid distribution was also initially unfair, he said.

 “There were some problems in the beginning, but then minority members protested and the issue was resolved,” he said.

 Masih added that Christian families in his village are receiving monthly stipends from the government.

 The list of homeless people was prepared by local land revenue
officers who did not do so fairly, said another Christian. Sarwar Masih
said he does not have property and does menial work for a living, but
his name was not included in the list by the land revenue officers, or
patwaris.

 “Patwaris had to refer our names to higher
authorities, but the names of those who could not ‘make them happy’ were
not included in the list,” he said. “My name was not in the list, so I
had no hope of getting land, though being homeless I fulfill the
criteria.”

 Areas where plots have been allotted include
Gurmani Sharki, Jandeer Dueaja, Chak 568 and Chowk Sarwar Shaheed. There
are some 8,500 registered minority voters, mostly Christians and
Hindus, in these areas, with the total minority population said to be
around 18,000.

 “Several people who have been allotted plots
under this scheme already have plenty of resources and land, while those
who do not have property have been ignored,” said a Christian
identified only as Wasim, who is minorities coordinator of Kot Addu.

 He added that one person who owns 22 acres of agricultural land has
been allotted more land under the government rehabilitation plan.

 Napoleon Qayyum, a minority rights activist and leader of the
Minorities Wing of the Pakistan People’s Party, said that under
Pakistan’s constitution, minorities should be given a 5 percent quota in
all government plans. He added that the Punjab government should adhere
to that quota as well.

 Officials from the local
administration responded to the allegations by saying they did not
directly handle flood rehabilitation, adding that plots were allotted to
homeless people through a lottery draw.

 Chaudhry Ehsanul
Haq Nolatia, a local Member of the Provincial Assembly from Kot Addu,
said a committee was formed to look into the allotment.

 “It
is true that the government did not allocate any special quota for
minorities in the scheme, but the plots were distributed through a
draw,” he said.

 He added that he would take up the issue in the Punjab Assembly.

 Flooding from monsoon rains affected the Punjab, Sindh, Khyber
Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan regions and the Indus River basin,
submerging about one-fifth of Pakistan’s land. Close to 2,000 people
died, and some 20 million people lost their livelihood, property or
other infrastructure in the flooding.

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