Adequate flood protection denied to religious minorities in Pakistan, Catholic source claims

Flood victims in Quetta, Pakistan. Credit: ACN
Flood victims in Quetta, Pakistan. Credit: ACN

.- A Catholic Church figure in Pakistan has charged that local authorities decided with “deliberate intention” not to provide adequate flood protection to regions with high numbers of minority religious groups, including Christians and Hindus.

The international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) claimed that “a key church figure” who “cannot be named” described a deliberate failure to reinforce key sections of the Indus River overlooking areas in the Sindh province which have a high density of tribal communities.

ACN’s source said that local Sindh government figures conspired with prominent land owners to reinforce the river bank on their property and other areas deemed important at the expense of other vulnerable regions.

He also alleged that gravel and other minerals were taken from poor areas to shore up the river bank in prioritized areas.

“It was not just incompetence on the part of the authorities to protect the poorest of the poor from potential floods, it was their deliberate intention that they should suffer if floods were to take place,” said ACN’s source, described as “a long-time key figure in the Sindh region.”

The source described his shock to find the river “unbelievably full” even though big canals nearby were “relatively empty.” This caused him to suspect that the flood waters were diverted to areas deemed to be of low importance.

According to the ACN source, a high concentration of minority groups is the one common factor in many of the regions worst affected by the floods, including areas around Jacobabad, Sibi, Sukkur, Larkana, Shikarpur, Thatta and Ranipur.

While Pakistan is 95 percent Muslim, the Sindh province has a disproportionate number of minority groups. Unlike in other provinces, in Sindh, the tribal communities of Christians, Hindus and Sikhs are able to practice their faith more freely.

ACN’s source warned that the crisis will deepen after Sept. 10 when the Islamic holiday season of Ramadan comes to an end. This means that Muslims will be less likely to give alms and other aid to those in need.

He reported that charities have to increase their efforts to help the disadvantaged, saying, “They have been ignored for far too long.”

ACN said that so far it has given $70,000 in aid to Pakistan flood victims. On Tuesday it announced a $51,000 aid package split between Multan, in the south of Punjab province, and Quetta, in western Baluchistan province, where thousands of flood victims have been sent.

The Sindh source told ACN that there is urgent need for clean water, food and shelter as well as mosquito nets.

“The suffering of the poor is increasing every day. We Christians should be helping, we should be playing our part,” he commented.

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