Local authorities in Pakistan decided against providing adequate flood protection to regions with high numbers of minority groups, according to a key Church figure, who says that the “poorest of the poor” are the worst victims of the current crisis.
The Church source, who cannot be named, described a deliberate failure to shore up key sections of the Indus River overlooking areas in the south-east Sindh province with a high density of tribal communities – minority religious groups made up of Christians and Hindus.
Speaking in an interview with Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), he said that local government figures in Sindh province conspired with prominent land owners to bolster the river bank running through their property and others deemed important at the expense of other regions which were left vulnerable to flood waters.
The Church source, a long-time key figure in the Sindh region, went further to claim that gravel and other minerals were even taken from poor areas to shore up the river bank in areas earmarked as a priority for flood protection.
He said, “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.”
He spoke of his shock traveling around the region to find the river “unbelievably full” and yet big canals nearby were “relatively empty” leading him to suspect that the flood waters were diverted to areas of low importance.
The source went on: “Charities and other organizations have to step up their efforts to help the disadvantaged people because they are the ones who have suffered most from these floods. They have been ignored for far too long.”
He said a high concentration of minority groups is the one common denominator in many of the regions worst affected by the floods, including areas around Jacobabad, Sibi, Sukkur, Larkana, Shikarpur, Thatta and Ranipur.
In a country 95 percent Muslim, the Sindh province has a disproportionately high number of minority groups with tribal communities, Christians, Hindus and Sikhs able to practice their faith more freely than elsewhere.
The Church source’s comments coincide with news that Aid to the Church in Need is considering options for an emergency aid payment for flood victims in the region.
So far, ACN has given $70,700 to Pakistan flood victims.
The charity recently dispatched a $50,800 aid package split between Multan, in the south of the Punjab province, and Quetta, in western Baluchistan province, where thousands of flood victims have been sent by the government.
Soon after the emergency broke, ACN agreed to aid of $19,900 for distribution by Sisters helping homeless people in Nowshera, a town west of the capital, Islamabad.
The source went on to warn of the emergency crisis deepening after September 10th when the Islamic season of Ramadan comes to an end, meaning that Muslims will be less likely to give alms and other aid to people in need.
He stressed the urgent need for clean drinking water, food and shelter as well as mosquito nets.
He added, “The suffering of the poor is increasing every day. We Christians should be helping, we should be playing our part.”