After all, what is the big deal if a few of them die?
It is a strange world we live in today. In one corner, people are working hard to save the lives of stray animals, setting up rescue centres so that none go cold or hungry. In another, there are people uniting to save trees and forests, ensuring no part of nature is intentionally harmed.
And, in yet another corner, there is Thar.
Unfortunately, nobody seems to be trying to save anything but their seats out here.
The gap between the people of Thar and its leaders continues to grow as more than 60 infants have lost their lives in this region since the year began.
Sindh’s Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah, however, seems to think these deaths are largely exaggerated and that his governance can hardly be blamed for these tragedies.
Although the CM has been defending his government in the face of Thar infant deaths for years now, let us just suppose for a very tiny instant, that he is right.
Let us suppose, despite the PPP-led government’s best efforts, these deaths are still occurring — has Shah not spent enough years blooming into a seasoned politician to still not know how to at least address this sensitive issue when speaking to the media?
Also read: 311 Thar children died in 11 months: report
“If there was drought and lack of healthcare facilities, then men and women would also have suffered equally,” he said, adding that, “It was injustice to hold his government responsible for something that was not even prevailing”.
Despite being a senior politician who has been keeping the chief minister’s seat warm for several years now, Shah didn’t seem to realise he was not addressing a private gathering of yes-men in some remote part of the province. That he was, in fact, speaking to a socially aware and highly critical audience.
Despite his experience and perhaps, some basic health knowledge of the issues in Thar, he seemed to think an infant’s health is no different than an adult’s when making the above statement.
How is it acceptable that a chief minister can be so uninformed?
Also read: Death haunts Tharparkar, again
Boasting about the facilities available at the Mithi Civil Hospital, Shah did not respond to the criticism by parents hailing from Chhachhro, Diplo, Islamkot and other smaller towns, who complained about lack of medicines and other necessary facilities at healthcare centres.
Instead, he questioned them: “How is the government expected to know about every death in the desert?”
Well, figure it out chief minister.
According to provincial food minister Syed Nasir Hussain Shah, the Thar Development Authority, envisaged by the Sindh government after the deaths of children in 2014, is yet to be formed — it appears a dozen more dying babies is just what they needed to kick-start the programme.
Whether it is malnutrition, famine, maternity-related issues or lack of medical practitioners — it remains the government’s utmost responsibility to address the deaths in Thar.
Distributing pity cheques and releasing some funds to grieving parents who have just buried their children is a poor attempt at damage control.
Speaking on the issue, PPP MNA Imran Zafar Leghari didn't seem to think these deaths were a “big deal” either. And he was very matter-of-fact about it, “that’s what happens in hospitals — people die there.”
Ask the parents of these children, Mr Leghari, what the big deal is.
Also read: Minister attributes Thar children deaths to their mothers’ ‘carelessness’
Do our politicians then deserve the seats they so brashly defend? If the PPP is to continue cradling Sindh, perhaps, it's time the party invested in someone who is just as enthusiastic about defending the people of Sindh.
Someone who, as a bonus, possesses the capacity to address grave national tragedies with care and above all, admits when they are in the wrong.
As mentioned in this week’s Dawn editorial on the matter, it is time criticism stopped being termed a ‘conspiracy’ against democracy and instead be addressed for what it really is: failure.