It is no secret that ethnic, sectarian and religious minorities in Pakistan face discrimination, but recent reports that this deplorable mindset is affecting flood relief efforts are deeply disturbing. On Monday, a large number of people in Hyderabad were driven to taking out a protest rally against the maltreatment of minority community flood victims. They cited two occasions when they were attacked and driven out of a relief camp.
A day before that, flood-affected families at an emergency relief camp in Thatta district complained that they were being refused aid, even by government officials, because they were Dalits. There have been numerous other reports: people being refused shelter because of their ethnicity, caste or religion, being discriminated against in the distribution of aid goods and being driven away from or forced to live on the very margins of the few camps that exist.
Discrimination on ethnic and religious grounds is deeply entrenched in Pakistan and will not change overnight. Yet that it is being used as an excuse to strip people of their rights as equal citizens even during a time of calamity is abhorrent. Whether Muslim, Hindu or Christian, high caste or low caste, the flood victims are all equally deserving of the attention of official and non-official aid channels. Resources are scarce and the desperate number in millions. Providing help across the board to the best of its abilities, irrespective of any ideology, is the first task of the state and society. Apart from the victims’ equal right to survival essentials such as shelter, potable water and food, the fact that the country was even before the floods rent along ethnic, sectarian and religious grounds must be kept in mind. Discrimination at this time will only deepen the divide and cause resentment that could unravel any possibility of future cohesiveness – Dawn