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To the corridors of power


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A society that is indifferent to the plight of its own people is a society in ruins. When Raja Khan stood in front of the Parliament and lit himself on fire he hoped to invoke the few men and women in the corridors of power, so that they would pay heed to the plight of their people.

At 22, Khan, is a father of two from Naushero Feroz Southern Punjab, who lost his battle with joblessness and poverty; yet he’s just one of the 1600 people — in a span of 10 months — who preferred death over the arduous struggle with poverty.

At least 283 people have been reported to have opted for suicide due to hopelessness and poverty in the past two months. This despite the fact that we assured the world that we would do whatever it takes to end poverty by 13 per cent in 15 years and meet the millennium development goal (MGD) that ends in 2015; a goal that for now seems absolutely impossible.

At the moment we suffer from multiple crisis, soaring maternal mortality rates, devastating recurrent floods — that have cut our GDP growth rate by 0.5 per cent — war on terror, volatile energy prices and food inflation, reflecting a battered economy. Under such circumstances will we witness a paradigm shift that views poverty and unemployment as a national security threat?

Probably not.

Raja did not make headlines, nor did any politician vow to fight the menace of poverty and unemployment to prevent others from a similar fate. His burnt body was wrapped into sheets, like his attempt at self immolation was a much expected accident rather than a consequence of the pent-up frustration in need of dire attention, as he was moved to the hospital where the doctor’s reported that he had suffered 90 per cent burns. Chances of his survival are scarce as he now breathes at the critical care unit at Pakistani Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) hospital.

“I am fed up of poverty, I am a father of two children but unable to feed them. My soul will rest in peace if the government took care of my family, including two children.”  Raja had scribbled on a piece of paper, with a few clothes and his identity card wrapped in a polythene bag. Raja’s note and his last hope from the state have now been reduced to a half burnt piece of paper and apathy from those in power.

I wonder if anyone of our respected parliamentarians would dare to stick their necks out of the windows of their high-priced vehicles and spare a thought at the site where Raja’s charred body was found on the road in front of the Parliament house.

Perhaps, Raja’s ordeal will fall on deaf ears and be forgotten as the likes of Ghazala Bibi, who stood at the city square for seven hours seeking buyers for her three children; the eldest being her 9 year old daughter. Muhammad Asif, 25, who killed his wife and his three children before hanging himself. Or if luck happens to be on his side, he might be subjected to a random act of kindness from government officials much like Aqsa Parveen, 35, whose four children put themselves on sale prompting the government to pay for their mother’s Kidney transplant.

But how long will this last? How many more children will be sold at the hand of their helpless parents? How many more charred, ripped and hung bodies will we witness before the men and women in the Parliament decide to prioritise poverty elevation?

Days before his death, Khan had tried to contact politicians, Member of parliaments hailing from Punjab, when all attempts became futile he left a suicide note that reflected his dying hope, a plea from the poverty stricken to the men and women in the corridors of power.

Sana Saleem is a blogger at at Global Voices, Asian CorrespondentThe Guardian and her personal blog Mystified Justice. She recently won the Best Activist Blogger award by CIO & Google at the Pakistan Blogger Awards. She can be found on Facebook and Twitter.

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

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Sana Saleem is the co-founder of Bolo Bhi & Stories Beyond Borders.

She's on the board of advisory for Courage Foundation, Edward Snowden's legal defence fund.

She can be found on Twitter & Facebook.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (16) Closed

Usmam Oct 28, 2011 01:38pm
I appreciate the awareness this will written article is trying to achieve, yet, at the same time this makes me feel very sad at how Pakistanis treat their own people.
Mohdudul Huq Oct 28, 2011 07:52pm
Rich Muslim countries do not share their resources to other poor Muslim nations. Most of the time it is found that they have spent their monies to non-Muslim to boost-up their image. Those countries do not follow Quran and Sunnah. There are too many corrupt politicians in the poor countries. They steal food from poor people’s plate and national resources are not equally distributed in the country.
Raja Islam Oct 28, 2011 08:10pm
Naushero Feroz is in district Nawabshah in Sindh and not in Southern Punjab.
jalaluddin S. Hussai Oct 28, 2011 08:14pm
It is very sad and shameful whatever is happening in Pakistan. I feel bad!
Syed L. H. Zaidi Oct 28, 2011 09:25pm
A well written and factual article.
Amir Oct 28, 2011 10:18pm
If some one tells me how to help these people I definitely will and I am sure there are a lots of other Pakistanis in USA and elsewhere who are also willing to help. I need to know where to send funds and how they are helping jobless people.
khalid Oct 28, 2011 11:03pm
A thought provoking article for the leaders and the rich people of Pakistan. If every one pay their tax and zakat religiously then there would be none poor left in this country.
amer Oct 28, 2011 11:37pm
sad very sad i dont know which side our nation is going.abslutely no words about my people how they are suffering.
S.A.M. Oct 29, 2011 01:56am
Sana you and i and many more like us have the heart to feel the pain of the sufferes but the rulers would simply not feel anything. their indifference is enough to conclude that they consider themselves as far above and very far from the masses. whatever plight the masses may face it would have no ipact on the big wigs it is after all not one of them it is high time that people join hands and rise against the tyrants
Rashid Oct 29, 2011 04:15am
Very well articulated!
mudasir yousuf Oct 29, 2011 09:59am
Excellent effort to highlight very Crucial Issues/////.. Mudasir Yousuf J&K. ( Research scholar pondicherry university)
M. Malik Oct 29, 2011 11:30am
Sad, but hardly surprising in a nation run by corrupt politicians, and apathy of public at large. A far cry from a small town in Tunisia which sparked the Arab uprising, and galvanized the entire world, leading to revolt against the status-quo in Europe to the US. When a nation looses conscientousness, it loses the spirit and all hope for the future. Our future leaders are supposed to come from the very multitude, who see all the unjustices taking place right before their very eyes, on a daily basis, and yet are unmoved. A terrible shame.
Hassan Warraich Oct 29, 2011 12:00pm
My heart bleeds for my countrymen! All those who are the helm of affairs are simply not concerend! They are visionless,foolhardy and money is their Lord! Thanks.
Shakeel GHOURI Oct 29, 2011 01:12pm
It is totally above comprehension that how such incompetent politicians are elected again and again who remain indifferent from the grieves of common people throughout their rule? instead of bewailing the hopelessness of people it is a real time of raising the political awareness among them. We should really think that how long it will happen? How many more people will have to embrace the death while the national money is embezzled by dishonest rulers? No one can take us out of this torment unless we ourselves strive to reform our circumstance, Because "God helps those who help themselves".
Ramsha Amir Oct 29, 2011 11:44pm
Since independence we have been encountering problems such as corruption, infant mortality, poverty and many others. However, the country including the civilians, military and politicians can't come up with a solution to rectify this. It is now time that we civilians stand up, instead of protesting lets take some fruitful step. Lets help individuals who are in dire need. I know there are numerous people but when we start helping one individual even that will motivate others. Education is very vital , once people get educated poverty and other problems will vanish. We should sponsor atleast one child with in our community. students should take out spare time and give voluntary teaching. In this way our country can advance a lot.
Awais Khan Oct 31, 2011 10:51am
The prevalent injustice and economic deterioration are factors contributing to violence and terrorism.