THIS is with reference to the recent boat tragedy in which two Pakistanis lost their lives, including Shahida Raza, who had represented the country in international football and hockey competitions. The incident happened when the wooden boat carrying illegal migrants crashed against rocks along the coast in southern Italy.

Although the incident was tragic, with 60 of the 200 illegal migrants on board believed to have died, Shahida’s loss makes us think of the haplessness of poverty-stricken souls who do not hesitate in putting their lives at risk for a better future and to somehow sail through choppy seas to land in Europe with sweet dreams. But these dreams are often shattered as we hear about boats carrying illegal migrants sinking before the occupants could safely land on some European shore.

Shahida’s story was that of a typical Pakistani who wants to reach Europe in search of greener pastures and to escape poverty in his/her hometown. Despite being a national football and hockey team member, Shahida, too, was struggling financially. The athlete who represented Pakistan at several international events, such as the SAFF Women’s Football Championship in 2010 and 2012, could not secure a stable and well-paid job.

Shahida was forced to travel to Italy via Turkiye to secure treatment for her three-year-old son suffering from the consequences of a stroke. She opted to take the voyage only after she was told by local doctors to take her son abroad where he might get the right treatment.

But her dreams were shattered and she met her tragic end when the boat went under off the Italian coast. It was a case of being so near and yet so far. The death of such an empowered woman paints a gloomy picture of our system that has numerous state-level issues.

Shahida’s inability to get her son treated is testimony to the inefficiency of our healthcare system, for here an ordinary citizen cannot find proper and inclusive healthcare facilities. According to a report, 350,000 Pakistanis suffer from stroke every year and 400 people die every day. Despite the huge impact of the medical condition, there is no substantial mechanism to control or treat it.

Moreover, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and other relevant authorities must be taken to task for they once again failed to stop human trafficking. Individuals like Shahida are lured and trapped by greedy and ruthless agents who promise their prey the moon, telling them they would find an easier and faster route to take them to Europe compared to the legal options.

Many would still be alive if the state had fulfilled its responsibilities. Will the politicians at least try to provide a better, safer Pakistan so that no one has to leave their loved ones risking their lives?

Tahir Gadehi
Sehwan Sharif

Published in Dawn, March 30th, 2023

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