Two more children have died in Tharparkar this week bringing the toll to 562 this year, with most of the dead being children under-5 who died due to malnutrition in Pakistan’s only Hindu-majority district. “We feel that we are being neglected because we don’t have much of a say in the politics of the country,” said Lal Malhi, a Hindu member of parliament from the area.
Most Hindus in Pakistan live in Sindh province and a majority of those are residents of Tharparkar, the district that borders India. The majority are subsistence farmers who are now standing at the brink of famine due to poor rainfall for five successive years. “Families are starving but there is little or no government help,” Malhi added.
But the government insists it is doing all it can. “You cannot blame the government for the deaths. We cannot be held responsible all the time,” said Taj Haider, a close aide of the Sindh government.
Haider said that the crisis is “media-made” and accuses NGOs of blowing the crisis out of proportion. Critics insist that the government is doing all it can to cover up its corruption. At the centre of the scandal is Sharjeel Memon, a minister who comes from the area and is seen to be close to Bilawal Bhutto, whose party is in power in Sindh. “Memon has a swimming pool in his house in an area where people trek for over six hours a day to get a litre of water,” said Kapil Dev, a journalist.
“As Hindus we are seen as second class citizens,” said Malhi, who belongs to Imran Khan’s PTI party. Some of his family members have already moved to India, others may follow.