KARACHI: Sindh Minister for Food Syed Nasir Hussain Shah has made light of unabated deaths of children in Thar and put blame for the tragedy on lack of awareness about handling of newborns and mothers, before and after pregnancy, and delayed arrival of ailing children at healthcare facilities.

There was no famine-like situation anywhere in Thar and he and other members of the ministerial committee formed by the chief minister to assess the Thar situation, did not find any complaint about shortage of medicines, doctors and paramedics in Mithi Civil Hospital during a recent visit to Tharparkar, said the minister.

Mr Shah, accompanied by adviser to chief minister on information, Maula Bux Chandio, told a press conference at the PPP media cell in Clifton on Sunday that the situation in Thar was far better now than it used to be in the past.

He said that there were other and more significant reasons that had led to sudden rise in children’s death including lack of awareness about handling of newborns and mothers and delayed arrival at medical facilities.

Mr Shah said the committee met government officials and received input from newly-elected members of local government during its visit to Thar and made recommendations to the government on how best it could tackle the situation.

The committee had prepared short-term and long-term solutions for Thar which would be submitted to the chief minister on Monday, he said.

He said the committee also suggested distribution of wheat to local population free of cost like the government did in past. He also recommended that medical facilities at the level of basic health units (BHU) and rural health units (RHU) should be upgraded so that the sick could receive adequate initial treatment before they undertook long and arduous journey to Mithi Civil Hospital.

Besides, he said, the committee suggested an increase in 4x4 ambulances in each taluka and said Unicef ambulances could be used for the purpose. “We have also recommended that Thar farmers should be exempted from payment of aabiyana and dhal and the Thar Development Authority should expedite development of the arid zone,” he said.

He dismissed the anti-PPP alliance-in-making of opposition parties and said it was a bunch of frustrated elements which posed no threat to the party. Similar alliances were propped up in past as well but they all failed to make any dent in the popularity of PPP, he said.

About the political scene, Maula Bux Chandio said that it was a matter of record that not a single case was framed against anyone during the tenure of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto on the basis of ill-will or political grudge and no political worker was in jail during previous PPP government.

He said the PPP had always been open to accountability but there should be no political revenge on the pretext of accountability.

Mr Chandio said that a bunch of frustrated elements had formed an alliance against the PPP who used to get elected through engineered polls. The PPP did not feel threatened by them because they did not have peoples’ support, he said.

He said if the old cases were being reopened then why the cases of Saifur Rahman and other leaders of PML–N were not being revived. It would not bode well for the country to invoke politics of 90s again. If there was unrest in Sindh, Punjab could not remain secure either, he said.

PPP leaders Senator Saeed Ghani, MPA Sikandar Shoro, MPA Lal Chand Okrani, Lateef Mughal, Syed Manzoor Abbas and Zulfiqar Qaimkhani were also present at the press conference.

Published in Dawn, January 11th, 2016

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