Pakistani Hindu Women Ride High On Thar Development Wave

As the world celebrates the International Day of the Girl today, the Thar development boom is empowering Pakistani Hindu women with jobs in nontraditional occupations ranging from engineering to truck driving, according to multiple media reports. These pioneering women will hopefully be a source of inspiration for young girls.

Thar Development:

Thar, one of the least developed regions of Pakistan, is seeing unprecedented development activity in energy and infrastructure projects.  New roads, airports and buildings are being built along with coal mines and power plants as part of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). There are construction workers and machinery visible everywhere in the desert. Among the key beneficiaries of this boom are Thari Hindu women who are being employed by Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC) as part of the plan to employ locals. Highlighted in recent news reports are two Hindu women in particular: Kiran Sadhwani, an engineer and Gulaban, a truck driver.

Kiran Sadhwani, a Thari Hindu Woman Engineer. Source: Express Tribune

Thar Population:

The region has a population of 1.6 million. Most of the residents are cattle herders. Majority of them are Hindus.  The area is home to 7 million cows, goats, sheep and camel. It provides more than half of the milk, meat and leather requirement of the province. Many residents live in poverty. They are vulnerable to recurring droughts.  About a quarter of them live where the coal mines are being developed, according to a report in The Wire.

Hindu Woman Truck Driver in Thar, Pakistan. Source: Reuters

Some of them are now being employed in development projects.  A recent report talked of an underground coal gasification pilot project near the town of Islamkot where "workers sourced from local communities rested their heads after long-hour shifts".

Hindu Woman Truck Driver in Thar, Pakistan. Source: Reuters 

In the first phase, Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC) is relocating 5 villages that are located in block II.  SECMC is paying villagers for their homes and agricultural land.

SECMC’s chief executive officer, Shamsuddin Ahmed Shaikh, says his company "will construct model towns with all basic facilities including schools, healthcare, drinking water and filter plants and also allocate land for livestock grazing,” according to thethirdpole.net He says that the company is paying villagers above market prices for their land – Rs. 185,000 ($ 1,900) per acre.

Hindu Women Employment:

Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC), the largest contractor working in Thar desert coal project, has committed itself to hiring locals wherever possible.

When SECMC launched its Female Dump Truck Driver Program near the town of Islamkot in Thar,  Kiran Sadhwani, a female engineer, visited several villages to motivate women to apply for the job and empower themselves, according to Express Tribune newspaper. “Not all women who are working as dumper drivers are poor or in dire need of money. It is just that they want to work and earn a living for themselves and improve the lives of their families,” she told the paper.

SEMC is hiring 30 women truck drivers for its Thar projects, according to Dawn newspaper.

Summary:

As the world celebrates the International Day of the Girl today, it's good to see the Thar development boom empowering Pakistani Hindu women with jobs in nontraditional occupations ranging from engineering to truck driving. These pioneering women will inspire and empower young girls to pursue their dreams in Pakistan and elsewhere in the world.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Working Women Seeding a Silent Revolution in Pakistan

Thar Development Boom in Pakistan

Abundant, Cheap Coal Power for Pakistan

Fact-Checking Farahnaz Ispahani's Claims on Pakistani Minorities

Pakistani Hindu Population Fastest Growing in the World

Recurring Droughts in Pakistan

Thar Drought: Pre-cursor to Dust Bowl in Pakistan?

Campaign of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt About CPEC

Comments

Riaz Haq said…
Coal Project Is Latest Sign of Growing Pakistan-China Relationship

https://www.voanews.com/a/coal-project-is-latest-sign-of-growing-pakistan-china-relationship/4125106.html

As the car speeds along gleaming blacktop highways in Pakistan's southern desert of Tharparkar, it is clear the new roads were not built to serve the poor herders and nomads who live in cone-shaped straw homes and subsist on herding sheep and cattle.

Indeed, a few decades ago, the Tharparkar desert in Sindh province bordering India was accessible only by crab-shaped vehicles that crawled over sand dunes by day and under star-studded skies at night, to reach the people of a forgotten century.

That changed as international feasibility studies sanctioned by Islamabad found that nearly half the desert covered coal. The turning point came as China offered to excavate and convert the fuel to help Pakistan cover its electricity shortfall of 25,000 megawatts.

So while the world turned away from coal to cleaner fuels, the Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC) began digging a layered, rectangular trough near the town of Islamkot.

Coal mine area

From above, the mining area looks like Pakistan's 5,000-year-old archaeological site, Moen Jo Daro (Mound of the Dead). But with Pakistani and Chinese flags fluttering side by side — and the hustle-bustle of dump trucks — the excavation clearly looks to the future.

Across the barren hills, the State Power International Mendong (SPIM) and China Machinery Engineering Corporation's power plants are poised to convert the coal to energy — reportedly 660 megawatts by the end of 2017.

Just outside the power plants sits a Chinese housing colony for the workers it has imported, a common practice for the country's foreign projects.

Partners in change

Meanwhile, Engro has a mandate from the Sindh government to ensure that the desert people, sitting atop the world's seventh-largest coal reserves, become willing partners in the transformation of their habitat.

Already, Engro has created "Khushal Thar" (Prosperous Thar), training 694 people on monthly stipends to be supplied to their Chinese partners.

Armed with a strategy for social change, Engro trains women as dump truck drivers. Recruiter Jehan Ara said the corporation, initially concerned about a backlash, first discussed the community's response to inducting women into an all-male profession, and only then made the positions official.


Interviewed in Islamkot, Marvi, 35, beamed at the prospect of driving dump trucks. Having six children was apparently no deterrent. Her husband, Ratan Lal, was on hand to cheer her, saying: "She is tough; she climbs trees to gather firewood and gets water from afar."

But the community has concerns that water from the mining process, discharged into Gorano village 28 kilometers away, could pollute drinking water sources. In Mithi town, people have repeatedly demonstrated to sound the alarm, with the fears echoed by Sindh's civil society.

For generations, the desert people have lived amid peacocks, sheep and camels. Engro plans to compensate and relocate them from their straw homes to model homes, fully equipped with schools and hospitals. Muslims and Hindus are to be resettled side by side, emblematic of the peaceful coexistence within the border community.

Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan invests $4.5 billion in Thar desert development in #Sindh

https://www.brecorder.com/2017/12/30/389797/investment-of-4-5-billion-in-thar-is-very-significant-governor-sindh/

The Sindh Governor Muhammad Zubair has said that the investment to the tune of dollars 4.5 billion in Thar is something very significant.

He was expressing his views at an interactive session on energy held at the Governor House here on Friday.

The Governor referred to the Thar coal reserves containing 175 billion tons and said that these would help meet country energy needs for a long time to come.

The coal would not only be used for the generation of energy but would also be for provision of basic needs to the residents of the area.

Zubair said that for the betterment of infrastructure 250- bed hospital as well as schools are also being built.

The government is taking every step so that the people of Thar could benefit from the natural resources of the area.

The Governor assured that the federal government would extend every cooperation for the welfare and betterment of the people of Thar.

He informed that generation of power from Thar coal would commence from the year 2019 and this will contribute towards prosperity in the area.

Zubair said that new avenues of development would also open in Thar.

The Chief Executive Officer of Sindh Engro Coal Mine, Shamsuddin Shaikh, said on the occasion that 76 percent of jobs in Thar have been provided to the local people.

He said that the time period of the project span over 42 months but it would be completed in 36 months.

He said that first phase of the project would be executed in 2019.

The company, he added, would also adopt all the schools in Thar.

The company required 500 drivers and intermediate pass youngsters were provided training and appointed as driver with the company at the monthly salary of Rs. 30,000.
Riaz Haq said…
Economist Magazine: "Just 1% of the vast #Thar #coal reserve discovered in 1992 could supply a fifth of #Pakistan's current #electricity generation for half a century" #CPEC #energy #infrastructure

https://www.economist.com/news/business/21736185-just-1-vast-reserve-discovered-1992-could-supply-fifth-countrys-current

PAKISTAN’s enormous mineral wealth has long lain untapped. Since a 1992 geological survey spotted one of the world’s largest coal reserves in Thar, a scrubby desert in the southern province of Sindh, prospectors have hardly dug up a lump. Among those to flounder is a national hero. Samar Mubarakmand, feted for his role in Pakistan’s nuclear-weapons programme, has just shut the coal-gasification company he founded in 2010, when he vowed on live television to crack Thar.

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To such qualms, the government offers three rejoinders. First, severe power shortages have long blighted the nation, and renewable sources cannot offer the daylong, year-round power it needs. Second, coal accounts for less than 1% of current generation, compared with 70% in neighbouring India and China. And third, domestic coal would allow the country to forgo expensive imports of the fuel for newly built power stations, a drain on fast-dwindling foreign-exchange reserves.

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Eight years ago Engro bought the rights to one of Thar’s 13 blocks, containing 1% of the reserve (more than enough given the gargantuan size of the mine). To work on extraction, it formed the country’s biggest ever public-private partnership, the Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC), in which Engro digs and the state provides infrastructure. Relying on the state can break strong firms. Engro itself almost went bankrupt in 2012 after the government refused to honour a sovereign guarantee to provide gas to one of its fertiliser plants. Yet without similar government support, no other Thar block-owners have secured financing, leaving Engro’s diggers, which began work last year, to move ahead.

The endeavour benefits from being in the group of infrastructure projects that make up the $62bn China Pakistan Economic Corridor, a hoped-for trade route. Western banks shook their heads when approached about a coal project, so Engro has relied on Chinese financing. Analysts note an irony in China’s promotion of coal abroad as it withdraws from the fuel at home. Handling the extraction at Thar is the China Machinery Engineering Corporation, a state-owned firm with expertise beyond Pakistan’s reach.

Around 126 metres below the sands of Thar, with just 20 more to go, Engro’s diggers can now almost touch their prize. When the coal is reached, as is expected in mid-2018, it will feed a pit-mouth power station constructed by Engro, and, in time, three others owned by partners in the SECMC. These stations will furnish around a fifth of the country’s electricity for the next 50 years. The financial rewards could be vast. “All my richest friends are jumping up and down [because they did not get there first]”, says the boss of one big multinational construction business.

Hurdles remain, not least complaints from nearby villagers about the disposal of the vast quantities of wastewater from the mine on their ancestral grazing lands in the form of a reservoir. In reply, Engro stresses its social work in the surrounding district of Tharparkar, the poorest in Sindh, which includes the construction of several free schools. More self-interestedly, it is training locals to drive so they can man the dump trucks that trundle day and night around the mine. According to Shamsuddin Shaikh, chief executive of Engro Powergen, the conglomerate’s energy division, Engro also has its sights on Reko Diq, a gargantuan and long-stalled copper mine in Balochistan, the least developed of Pakistan’s provinces. To tap one of the country’s two largest and most niggardly mines is hard enough. Imagine cracking them both.

Riaz Haq said…
Thar — The Future of Pakistan

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/307505-thar-the-future-of-pakistan-by-senator-rehman-malik-sitara-e-shujaat-nishan-e-imtiaz

Population of Tharparkar district is around 1.65 million and Thar is spread over both sides of India and Pakistan where the life always remained hard because of the non-availability of sweet water.

The region derives its names from Thar and Parkar. The name Thar is from Thul, the general term for sand region or sand ridges and Parkar literary means “to cross over”. The region was earlier known as Thar and Parkar, later theses became one word, Thar and Parkar coined together and formed a beautiful name Tharparkar.

The people of Thar have been underfed because the area being desert has no reliable irrigation system. The lands, whatsoever, are irrigated on rainwater. Historically, Thar receives low pour but when it receives rains it makes the desert lush green where peacocks dance and sing making the scene most fascinating.

The water is drawn out from deep water wells but that water also contains highest volume of TDH.

The people of Thar used to face various health hazard problems such as waterborne diseases, inadequate health facilities, famine and lack of basic infrastructure. Apart from it, poverty, population growth, lack of clean drinking water, unemployment and high illiteracy had trapped Tharparkar in a state of catastrophe. Therefore, people used to migrate from Thar to revering area to save them and their cattle and those who fail to migrate used to lose their dear ones and cattle, the only source of their livelihood.

Crop failure due to low rainfall, coupled with loss of small animals has greatly reduced the impoverished communities’ purchasing power. Poverty is endemic in the sparsely populated district with acute malnutrition rates in children as high as 20 per cent, well above the emergency threshold of 15 per cent.

The biggest reason perhaps of disease and death in Tharparkar is malnourishment of its mother. It is no secret that Thar people do not have access to clean water, health facilities or food because of which mothers in Tharparkar give births while their hemoglobin level is as low as four.

Death is a regular visitor at the doors of Tharparkar’s mothers. More than 190 children have died and 22,000 have been hospitalized in Tharparkar district in 2016 because of drought-related waterborne and viral diseases. Tharparkar is facing severe drought for the fourth consecutive year, and access to health services is reported to be very difficult, with families travelling an average distance of 17 km to reach the nearest health facility.

Whereas sweet water condition in Tharparkar is worst and access to water is a key problem for the district of Tharparkar, which comprises an area of 22,000 sq km. More than 1.4 million people and about five million heads of livestock live in the area, where annual rainfall averages can be as low as 9mm, and drought is common.

Barely 5 percent of the population has access to a sweet water supply. Even the district capital, Mithi, [only] gets sweet water twice in a month. Laying down water supply lines at high cost is also open to question. Most of the population relies on dug wells. The worst conditions are basically the byproduct of non-availability of basic needs of life. There are deserts in the world, which are now productive and life is more than normal. Just take the example of UAE with total area is 83,600 km and part of UAE is producing oil and gas and rest of the UAE is desert but the good planning and attention has converted the area into a most developed area.

Thar coalfield is located in Thar Desert. The deposits—16th-largest coal reserves in the world, were discovered in 1991 by Geological Survey of Pakistan (GSP) and the United States Agency for International Development.
Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistani #Hindu women in #Thar determined to change destiny through #CPEC. #China #Coal #Power https://nation.com.pk/26-Oct-2018/pakistani-women-determined-to-change-destiny-through-cpec

"It made me believe in miracles," said 24-year-old Lata Mai who drives a 60-ton dump truck in a coal-based power plant in Thar desert of Pakistan's south Sindh province, a project under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

READ MORE: Ethiopia appoints Africa's only female president
Belonging to an area where women are usually underprivileged and less educated, Mai dared to dream big.

The childhood dream of Mai, now the mother of two, was to drive a vehicle on the barren road of Thar. But she knew it was a fancy thinking that would probably never be realized, until one day her husband brought a pamphlet home which said that the Thar coal project was hiring women to drive trucks.

Mai, who had never shared her dream with anyone, hesitantly expressed her wish to apply for the post.

Her husband merely laughed at the idea, but after seeing her determination, he agreed to support her.

READ MORE: Everything feels in rhythm, says Curry after 51-point night
Naseem Memon of Sindh Engro Mining company, a member of the committee that hired Mai and dozens of other young women in Thar, told Xinhua that the women drivers are undergoing a 10-month training and will get behind the wheel in December.

"Unlike other sectors, in a coal project, most of the mining jobs are related to truck driving. When we observed that women in Thar walk two to three miles a day in temperatures as high as 50 degrees Celsius, we believed that if we bring them to job sector, they can do wonders. We were right, they did not disappoint us, they are more hardworking than their male counterparts," said Memon.



"You can imagine how CPEC has changed the lives of these women in a far flung desert of Pakistan. Women, who were utterly dependent on men, are now freely driving heavy dump trucks."

Kiran Sidhwani, a young woman living in the Thar desert, also witnessed a surprising turn in her life after she got a job opportunity in the Thar coal power project.

READ MORE: US mail bombs: who has been targeted?
"She is a young university graduate who is working as an electrical engineer with us. Apart from Sidhwani, we have also hired a female civil engineer who will join work after completing her training," Memon told Xinhua.

Pakistan's Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari said earlier this week that when CPEC moves beyond road construction to enter into the building process of economic zones, the standard of workforce will be raised in the country.

"As special economic zones are coming to play, multinational enterprises will bring corporate social responsibility with them. With the bringing in of great corporate social responsibility, we will see the rise and improvement in the standard of workforce, including the women workforce," said the minister.

According to the latest study of CPEC Center of Excellence, CPEC has the potential to create around 1.2 million jobs through the currently agreed projects, and the number may go up with the inclusion of new projects under its long term plan.

READ MORE: Spain Supreme Court orders trial of former Catalan leaders
The CPEC projects, including energy projects, infrastructure projects, Gwadar Port and industrial cooperation proposed under special economic zones in different provinces of the country, will immensely help reduce the unemployment rate in the country.

Analysts believe that female employment rate in CPEC is low at this stage as the project mainly offers blue collar jobs, but with the development of economic zones, more white collar job opportunities will be offered and more women workforce will take part in it.

A primary school has been established in Gwadar where 498 students including 348 girls are provided quality education to enable them to reap the benefits of CPEC-related projects in the Gwadar port.
Riaz Haq said…
In a first, #Pakistan appoints #Hindu #woman Suman Bodani underdeveloped rural area of Sindhas civil #judge https://tribune.com.pk/story/1898858/1-first-pakistan-appoints-hindu-woman-civil-judge/

For the first time in Pakistan’s judicial history a woman belonging to Hindu community has been appointed as civil and judicial magistrate.

Suman Bodani, hailing from Sindh’s Shahdadkot district, was declared eligible for the post after passing her judicial officers’ examination with flying colours – securing 54th position on the merit list, Express News reported on Monday.

Speaking to a foreign news outlet, Bodani said she belonged to an underdeveloped rural area of Sindh, where she witnessed poor struggling to cope with various challenges life throws at them. “They cannot even afford to lodge cases, and that is the reason behind my decision of joining law [studies] so I can bring justice to them,” she was quoted as saying.

After completing her intermediate from her native town Shahdadkot, Bodani persuaded law and acquired Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree from Hyderabad and Master of Laws (LLM) from Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology (SZABIST) in Karachi.

Bodani also said she faced resistance form her own community as they did not like girls working in the law field. However, her family including her father and siblings extended their full support to her. “My family did not pay any heed to what people would say and helped me achieve my goal.”

Last year, Justice Syeda Tahira Safdar made history after becoming the first woman chief justice of a high court in the country.

She was also the first woman appointed as a civil judge in Balochistan and holds the distinction of being the first woman in the province appointed as a judge in the Balochistan High Court.
Riaz Haq said…
#Hindu #Dalit female lawmaker Krishna Kumari chairs #Pakistan Senate on Women’s Day. #WomensDay #DoYouKnowRealPakistan,” https://www.thenews.com.pk/latest/441328-hindu-female-lawmaker-chairs-pakistan-senate-on-womens-day

Pakistan Senate’s first Thari Hindu woman, Krishna Kumari Kolhi on the occasion of International Women’s Day is chairing a session of the Upper House on Friday.


Senator Faisal Javed made the announcement on Twitter of Kohli chairing the session to commemorate the International Women’s Day being celebrated across the globe.

“Chairman Senate of Pakistan decided to make our colleague Krishna Kumari Kohli aka Kishoo Bai to Chair the Senate for today on #WomensDay #DoYouKnowRealPakistan,” he tweeted.

Before starting the session, Kolhi expressed her gratitude for being given the chance: “I consider myself very fortunate today to be sitting on this seat, I salute Pakistan and I salute Pakistan’s people and I am proud to be a Pakistani and only Pakistani.”

The 39-year-old Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader hailing from Nagarparkar in the vicinity of Tharparkar became the first one in the senate to have roots from an isolated caste.
Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan Govt Sacks Minister Fayyaz Chohan For ‘Anti-#Hindu’ Remarks. https://www.thequint.com/news/world/pak-min-fayyaz-ul-chohan-axed-amid-din-over-anti-hindu-remarks

akistani Punjab's Information Minister Fayyaz-ul Hassan Chohan of the ruling PTI has been sacked after facing severe criticism from members of his party for making derogatory remarks about Hindus.

The PTI government in Pakistan’s Punjab on Tuesday, 5 March, tweeted that it had “removed Fayyaz Chohan from the post of Punjab Information Minister following derogatory remarks about the Hindu community”.

“Bashing someone’s faith should not be a part of any narrative. Tolerance is the first and foremost pillar on which Pakistan was built,” the party had said.


‘Cow Urine-Drinking People’
Chohan had referred to the Hindu community as "cow urine-drinking people" at a recent press conference, as per IANS.

"We are Muslims and we have a flag, the flag of Maula Ali's bravery, the flag of Hazrat Umar's valour. You (Hindus) don't have that flag, it isn't in your hands," he had said.

"Don't operate under the delusion that you're seven times better than us. What we have, you can't have, you idol worshippers," he had said in a video that went viral on social media.

‘Won’t Tolerate Remarks Against Minority’
His remarks were condemned by Prime Minister Imran Khan and other key political leaders of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) for his insensitivity towards the Hindus, a minority in Pakistan.

Khan had termed Chohan's remarks "inappropriate" and said, "We will not tolerate remarks against any minority community."

The minister had then apologised and said his comments were directed only at Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Indian media.
fbtw
"I was referring to Narendra Modi, RAW and Indian media," he said on Samaa TV's programme Naya Din on Tuesday. "The remarks weren't meant for any person in Pakistan. My message was for Indians.”

"I didn't demean any religion. The things I said are a part of Hindutva. I said things that are a part of their religion," he added.

Also Read : Pakistan Minister slammed over anti-Hindu remarks

But it seems the statements failed to quell anger. PTI's leader Naeemul Haque said, as per IANS, "The derogatory and insulting remarks against the Hindu community by Fayyaz Chohan... The PTI government will not tolerate this nonsense from a senior member of the government or from anyone. Action will be taken after consulting the Chief Minister."

Ministers of Human Rights Shireen Mazari tweeted, "Absolutely condemn this. No one has the right to attack anyone else's religion. Our Hindu citizens have given sacrifices for their country.”

“Our Prime Minister’s message is always of tolerance and respect and we cannot condone any form of bigotry or spread of religious hatred,” she added.
fbtw
Finance Minister Asad Umar had also condemned the remarks. He said, "Hindus of Pakistan are as much a part of the fabric of the nation as I am. Remember the flag of Pakistan is not just green... it is not complete without the white which represents the minorities."


Riaz Haq said…
Pakistan court rules teenage Hindu girls converted to Islam voluntarily

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-pakistan-hindu/pakistan-court-rules-teenage-hindu-girls-converted-to-islam-voluntarily-idUSKCN1RN1AB

Two Pakistani Hindu sisters whose parents said they were kidnapped and forced to change their religion to marry Muslims had converted voluntarily, a court ruled on Thursday, in a case that has attracted attention in Hindu-majority India.

The court had ordered the government to take custody of the sisters, both teenagers, in late March after accusations spread on social media that they had been forced to convert to Islam.

Another video showed the sisters saying they had married two Muslim men and converted to Islam of their own free will.


The court said the two were adult enough to make their own decisions and that they were not forced to convert.

Police say the teenagers left their home in Pakistan’s southern province of Sindh on March 20 to be married in Punjab province, where the law does not bar marriages of those younger than 18, unlike Sindh.

The police detained ten people in the case and registered a formal case of kidnapping and robbery on complaints from the girls’ parents.


The incident prompted a rare public intervention by a top Indian official in its neighbor’s domestic affairs, when Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj said on Twitter she had asked India’s ambassador in Pakistan for a report.

Pakistan was “totally behind the girls”, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said on social media in response to Swaraj’s message, but asked India to look after its own minority Muslims.
Riaz Haq said…
‘Forced conversions’ of Hindu women to Islam in Pakistan: another perspective

https://theconversation.com/forced-conversions-of-hindu-women-to-islam-in-pakistan-another-perspective-102726?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=twitterbutton


if we wish to fully understand why these girls disappear, I believe it is crucial to engage with the Hindu community’s patriarchal structures. I believe that behind some cases of forced conversion we actually find a family’s attempt to avoid social stigma.

Rural parts of Sindh (but also other parts in Pakistan) are highly patriarchal and daughters who decide to marry a man of their own choice are frequently a reason for shame.

By labelling an eloped daughter as the victim of a crime, Hindu families avoid ridicule and embarrassment. I base this assumption on my lengthy collaboration with Hindu rights groups in Sindh as well as the study of affidavits taken from Sindhi newspapers (called Qassamu Namo in Sindhi).

Women commission such documents with the help of court clerks. These affidavits are published a few days after the girls have left their families and serve as proof that they had willingly eloped.

I believe that explaining cases of forced conversion with religious zeal, fails to see the complexities behind the economic, social, and political realities of many Pakistani-Hindu women.

This short essay shows the myriad ways in which non-Muslim women are commodified within Pakistan’s patriarchal society. Local influential elites, for example, might utilise religious sentiment as an insidious tool to cover up sexual harassment.

Riaz Haq said…
Bloom in the desert
By Kamal SiddiqiPublished: April 15, 2019

https://tribune.com.pk/story/1950826/6-bloom-in-the-desert/

It seems now there are plans for a permanent bloom in Thar. Last week, PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari inaugurated the Thar coal power plant. It is a unique project.

The power plant has the capacity to generate 660 megawatts of electricity and consists of two power generation units of 330MW each. The first such unit came online this month. The project is a coal-fired power plant in Tharparkar district, 25 kilometers from the town of Islamkot near the village of Singharo-Bitra.

The project is being developed as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) by Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (a joint venture between the Government of Sindh and Engro Corporation) and China Machinery Engineering Corporation in the Thar Block-II of the Thar Coalfield. For this project to move ahead, the Sindh government provided a sovereign guarantee of $700 million.

It is believed that this project will change the fortunes not only of Thar but of Pakistan as well given how indigenous fuel is being used to generate the much-needed power for the national grid.

The social aspects of this project seem to be also looked after. The villages of Senhri Dars and Thareo Halepoto are being relocated. Developers of the project also have pledged to refill coal pits once coal reserves are exhausted, and have also pledged to “plant hundreds of thousands of indigenous trees to maintain the natural ecosystem of the desert.” Nurseries have already been set up for this purpose.

This isn’t on paper. It has become a reality. At its peak, it is expected that 3,000 unskilled workers — mostly locals — will be given employment. It is very encouraging to see these people working in different positions side by side with others from all over Pakistan. We are also seeing the establishment of a campus of NED University of Engineering and Technology in Thar to help enhance skills of local people.

But to get to this point was a struggle. In his speech at the inauguration of the power plant, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah recalled how time and again the Sindh government and interested parties were told that this project would not succeed. It took sheer grit and determination to push through and make this project succeed finally and change the fortunes of the people of Thar and Pakistan. One wonders how many more of such projects are being denied by the babus in Islamabad for reasons best known to them.

Whether it is the Islamkot Airport or the artificial lake that has been created 26 kilometers away to drain the saline water extracted from the coal mines, the Thar coal site continues to impress not only because of the technology used but also how it has started to change the lives of the people living here.

There is much to see here. The women drivers of dumper trucks who bring the coal to the power plant. The amazing sight of the open cut coal mine. The power plant itself — with its chimney — is believed to be the highest man-made structure in Pakistan today.

Thar coal is not just an achievement of the Sindh government but of Pakistan. That is why it was sad to see that no one was there from the PTI or from the Centre to celebrate the inauguration of the power plant. Old mindsets seem to continue to proliferate in the new Pakistan. We need to think of Pakistan.

Riaz Haq said…
#Thar on the #climatechange frontline in #Pakistan. As #crops fail, #livestock die, tribal communities that have survived for centuries are breaking apart. Technologies like #land terracing, #dripirrigation, mulching can save #water, preserve soil quality

https://www.ft.com/content/78bb819e-a822-11e9-b6ee-3cdf3174eb89


In the Thar Desert (in Pakistan), communities already face an existential threat: there is nowhere near enough food to go round. Hundreds of thousands of people in Tharparkar, more than half the district’s population, face acute food insecurity, meaning they experience hunger but can go entire days without eating anything. Some 400,000 children under five are acutely malnourished, according to the FAO. More than 500 children died from hunger-related causes last year.

As crops fail, and livestock wither and die, the communal nature of life that has bound people in the Thar Desert together for so long is breaking apart. Villagers can no longer afford to stay on their lands. Ebu says that “most healthy men” have had to migrate to cities or towns where they hope to find work as day-labourers. “When they return,” she says, “they only bring things for their own family.”

Others complain in similar terms. Bheel calls it a “drought in community”. Perhaps it is this — the sense of togetherness evaporating — that causes most unease. “We are constantly worried,” says Ebu. “We’re in a constant state of anxiety. It’s as if we are drowning.”

As with most slow-motion humanitarian crises, the issue is not that there are no solutions — but that they require political will, finance and attention. For dry-land communities like those of the Thar Desert, technologies such as land terracing, drip irrigation and mulching can save water and preserve soil quality, sustaining the livestock and crops on which people depend. Such steps would mean major financing as well as government and international support.

The broader need to meet Pakistan’s energy requirements is also not unattainable; billions of dollars of investment are pledged at climate conferences every year. Some of this money could and should be invested in developing countries like Pakistan, enabling them to shift their fossil fuel-powered growth models towards renewable energy alternatives. Overall, it is a massive project and, in relative terms, there is very little time. It’s hard to feel optimistic.

By 2050, Karachi will have a population of 24 million, and experience ‘deadly heatwaves’ of 49C on an annual basis

One evening, Bheel tells me several tales, from legend and personal experience, recalling djinns (ghosts) and deos (spirits) and the alarming feats of the goddess Aver Devi. “My grandmother’s ghost stories were the worst,” he says, “because they seemed so true.” Reality is beginning to attain something of these stories.

Late one night, with a guide, I visit a village in the desert. The moon and stars are bright enough to reveal our shadows on the sand. In the monochrome light, the landscape resembles a blackish sea. In silence, we come across some abandoned thatched huts; black shapes in the darkness.

We find other huts. Two figures emerge. A man says his eight brothers and their families have left this village. His is the last family left. It is a ghost village. Soon, because of climate change, places like these will be uninhabited, and the desert wind will be the only sound; a long, drawn-out gasp of what once was.
Riaz Haq said…
Pushpa has become the first #Pakistani #Hindu girl to serve as #police officer in #Sindh after she passed the provincial competitive examination taken by hundreds of other candidates. https://gn24.ae/8961daf8c8d2000

A Pakistani Hindu girl Pushpa Kohli has become the first police officer from her community in Sindh province.

Kohli has been posted as Assistant Sub Inspector (ASI) after she passed the provincial competitive examination taken by hundreds of other candidates.

The news of her appointment was shared by tweeps on social media and has gone viral. The news was first broken by Pakistani human rights activist and blogger Kapil Dev on Tuesday night on his twitter account. Kolhi is the first woman from the Hindu community to join the provincial police force as ASI.

“Pushpa Kolhi has become the first girl from #Hindu community who has qualified provincial competitive examination through Sindh Public Service Commission and become Assistant Sub Inspector (ASI) in Sindh Police. More power to her!,” he tweeted


Kapil Dev
@KDSindhi
Excellent News: Pushpa Kolhi has become the first girl from #Hindu community who has qualified provincial competitive examination through Sindh Public Service Commission and become Assistant Sub Inspector (ASI) in Sindh Police. More power to her! #WomenEmpowerment

Earlier in January this year, another Pakistani Hindu girl Suman Pawan Bodani, was also appointed a judge to the civil and judicial magistrate.

Bodani said she belongs to an underdeveloped rural area of Sindh, where she has seen the poor struggling to cope with various challenges.

She added that her family, including her father and siblings, had extended their full support to her and this had helped her in achieving her dreams to become a judge, according to Pakistani media reports.


Riaz Haq said…
#Thar #Pakistan In pictures: Thar residents rejoice after rains turn desert green. Many Thar residents who had migrated due to shortage of water have returned. #RAIN https://www.dawn.com/news/1503143

The arid Thar desert has turned verdant after much-needed spells of rain fertilised the soil.

Many Thar residents, who had migrated to other pastures with their livestock or to earn livelihood due to a shortage of water, have returned to their villages in order to plant crops and resume cattle farming.

Following are some pictures of the desert after recent showers.

Riaz Haq said…
Hard Times Have #Pakistani Hindus Looking to #India, Where Some Find Only Disappointment. Current migration is because of #Modi’s open appeals to #Hindu identity in India. But lower #caste Hindus have been beaten for drinking water from upper caste well. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/05/world/asia/pakistan-hindu-india-modi.html

This is not the Hindu paradise they had crossed the border to join, they said. This is not the India Mr. Modi promised them.


In Pakistan, local officials say the pressure for Hindus to weigh moving to India has not been this great since a wave of sectarian violence led many to migrate in the 1990s, after a Hindu mob in India tore down a 16th-century mosque, the Babri Masjid, leading to retaliatory attacks in Pakistan.

The current migration is because of Mr. Modi’s open appeals to Hindu identity in India, they say, stripping the country of the secular framework it was founded on to give supremacy to their religion.

Since Mr. Modi’s election victory, Pakistani Hindus say they have had an easier time obtaining religious or pilgrimage visas to India, which they can then convert to long-term visas if they seek Indian citizenship.

Though the exact number of Hindu migrants is hard to pin down, indications of a wider push to go to India can be seen in the numbers of those long-term visas. In 2018, the Indian government granted 12,732 long-term visas, compared with 4,712 in 2017, and 2,298 in 2016, according to the Ministry of External Affairs. About 95 percent of long-term visas are granted to Pakistani Hindus, officials say.

Millions of Hindus remained in Pakistan when Britain carved out the state from the subcontinent to create a Muslim homeland at independence in 1947. They were unwilling to abandon their homes and businesses, like the millions of Muslims who ended up on the Indian side during partition, where now about 200 million live.


-----------

Even among Pakistani Hindus who are considering going to India, there are very real reasons to hesitate.

Kumar is one who is torn. Though he was shaken by the recent violence in his hometown, he said he was still reluctant to pick up and leave when the trains start running again. He has said goodbye to neighbors who have migrated to India, only to see them return to Pakistan months or years later, disappointed.

Bhagchand Bheel is one of the disappointed. When he migrated to India in 2014, he was grateful to leave the violence and pressure of Karachi, Pakistan’s commercial hub. He boarded the Thar Express to Zero Point Station, the last stop before the border, where he and his family lugged their bags by foot into India, settling in a camp in the city of Jodhpur.

He was among his people, he thought, and could finally be free. But he is of a lower caste, and when he tried to enter a Hindu temple, he was barred entry by the priest because of it, he said. And when a friend tried to drink from the community water well, he was physically assaulted by upper caste Brahmins who accused him of polluting it.

“In Pakistan, the only thing that matters is if you are Hindu or Muslim,” said Mr. Bheel, whose last name is derived from his tribe. “Because we are Hindus, in Pakistan we were discriminated against. But in India, I face discrimination because I’m a Bheel.”

----------------


Mr. Bheel is wracked by doubt, the same doubt his grandfather had when he chose to keep the family in Pakistan during partition. Did he make the right choice?

He left his home and siblings in Karachi, trading a lucrative job as an administrator of a medical clinic there to live as a migrant in India. His medical diploma, one of the few possessions he brought with him, hangs proudly on a wall, although it is not valid in India. He struggles to make ends meet here.
Riaz Haq said…
In Pakistan, it’s middle class rising
S. Akbar Zaidi

https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/in-pakistan-its-middle-class-rising/article17378526.ece

he general perception still, and unfortunately, held by many people, foreigners and Pakistanis, is that Pakistan is largely an agricultural, rural economy, where “feudals” dominate the economic, social, and particularly political space. Nothing could be further from this outdated, false framing of Pakistan’s political economy. Perhaps the single most significant consequence of the social and structural transformation under way for the last two decades has been the rise and consolidation of a Pakistani middle class, both rural, but especially, urban.

-------------------

Girls shining
Data based on social, economic and spatial categories all support this argument. While literacy rates in Pakistan have risen to around 60%, perhaps more important has been the significant rise in girls’ literacy and in their education. Their enrolment at the primary school level, while still less than it is for boys, is rising faster than it is for boys. What is even more surprising is that this pattern is reinforced even for middle level education where, between 2002-03 and 2012-13, there had been an increase by as much as 54% when compared to 26% for that of boys. At the secondary level, again unexpectedly, girls’ participation has increased by 53% over the decade, about the same as it has for boys. While boys outnumber girls in school, girls are catching up. In 2014-15, it was estimated that there were more girls enrolled in Pakistan’s universities than boys — 52% and 48%, respectively. Pakistan’s middle class has realised the significance of girls’ education, even up to the college and university level.

In spatial terms, most social scientists would agree that Pakistan is almost all, or at least predominantly, urban rather than rural, even though such categories are difficult to concretise. Research in Pakistan has revealed that at least 70% of Pakistanis live in urban or urbanising settlements, and not in rural settlements, whatever they are. Using data about access to urban facilities and services such as electricity, education, transport and communication connectivity, this is a low estimate. Moreover, even in so-called “rural” and agricultural settlements, data show that around 60% or more of incomes accrue from non-agricultural sources such as remittances and services. Clearly, whatever the rural is, it is no longer agricultural. Numerous other sets of statistics would enhance the middle class thesis in Pakistan.
Riaz Haq said…
$4 billion to be invested in #Pakistan #economy. The #Chinese utility company Shanghai Electric will invest $4 billion in #Thar #Coal block one and will establish two more #power plants of 1320 megawatts, as per the reports. #electricity https://dailytimes.com.pk/487646/4-billion-to-be-injected-in-pakistan-economy/ via @dailytimespak

According to the details, a seven-member delegation of Shanghai Electric called on Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah at the Chief Minister’s House in Karachi today to discuss the project.


Speaking on the occasion, Syed Murad Ali Shah said that the financial close of the project will be by the end of this year. He said that the project will also generate employment opportunities for locals. Back in April, Chairman Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Bilawal Bhutto Zardari had inaugurated the Thar coal power project.

Thar coal power project has the capacity to generate 660 megawatts and consists of two power generation units of 330MW each.
The project was completed under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor’s (CPEC) flagship public-private partnership with the Government of Sindh. For this project, the Sindh government had given a sovereign guarantee of $700 million


Riaz Haq said…
Female Empowerment in Pakistan
ON NOVEMBER 1, 2019

https://www.borgenmagazine.com/female-empowerment-in-pakistan/


UNDP Supports High Altitude Farming
In the Pakistan territory of Gilgit-Baltistan, harsh mountain terrain makes it difficult for families to grow enough food to support themselves. It becomes especially difficult in the winter. In response, UNDP came up with a solution that helps tackle food insecurity and empower women. It has provided tunnel farms that are owned and run by local women. Tunnel farms are plastic, hooped greenhouses that protect crops from winter weather. These farms give the region access to fresh vegetables throughout all seasons.

By placing the tunnel farms in the hands of women, UNDP is supporting economic empowerment for women in the region. The women are able to make money for themselves and their families by selling the vegetables they grow in local markets. Between January and April 2019, these women were able to grow approximately 16,500 seedlings in the tunnels. Each tunnel earned approximately $247 for its produce. This income supports women, families and communities. The tunnels are an important step toward greater female empowerment in Pakistan.

UNDP Provides Training to Rural Women
In the Sultan Shah village in the Noshki district of Pakistan, UNDP is taking a different approach to helping women become economically empowered. The district suffers from severe poverty. Women often need to find employment to make ends meet for their families. Due to a lack of employment opportunities in the village, many need to travel long distances to find work.

Bibi Hajra, a recent widow, walked hours each day to be a domestic worker for wealthier families and was still not making enough to adequately support her family. She stated, “The houses where I worked were a long distance away from my own home. Each day, by the time I reached the neighbourhood, I was already exhausted — my actual job of cleaning the houses still lay ahead of me,” she said.

In response to the difficulties faced by these women, UNDP supported a stitching center to train women in marketable embroidery and sewing skills. Though this initiative is on a fairly small scale, it reflects the importance of addressing the specific needs of women in different contexts. The stitching center has had a significant impact on women in the Sultan Shah village. Bibi Hajra now making enough money to adequately support her family without traveling.

U.N. Women Fights for Equal Employment Opportunities
U.N. Women is also committed to supporting female empowerment in Pakistan. Recently, they worked with the local energy company Engro Energy Limited (EEL) to ensure equal employment opportunities for women in Sindh, Pakistan. Being rich in natural resources, there has been a lot of development for local energy companies over the past few years. This has increased employment opportunities for both men and women. Women are now working “unconventional” jobs, including transport, entrepreneurship and engineering.

EEL has committed to supporting female employment by signing the “Women’s Empowerment Principles.” These principles formally agree to help women participate fully and equally in the job force. It is important to note that the company had already set a precedent for supporting women and giving them equal job opportunities. Many women have been working as truck drivers for the company. The agreement is another way to continuing EEL’s commitment.

One woman, Rukhsana, has benefited greatly from truck driving. She stated, “Through this driving training, I gained the strength and courage to face the world,” She added that the income has had a significant impact on her family’s well being, allowing her sons to attend school. She hopes to provide them will better opportunities in the future by enabling them to go to college. EEL hopes to recruit more female truck drivers and give them an opportunity to become economically empowered.
Riaz Haq said…
#Hindu #population in #Pakistan has grown at a faster pace than in #India https://www.business-standard.com/article/current-affairs/hindu-population-in-pakistan-has-grown-at-a-faster-pace-than-in-india-119032600520_1.html#.XdnQjA_YCTs.twitter

According to Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, the country’s population in 2017 was 207 million, growth of 146% from 1981. While Pakistan has not yet revealed the religious composition of its population in the latest census, the 1998 census pegged the population of Hindus at 2.1 million. In 1998, Hindus comprised 1.6 per cent of Pakistan’s population which made them the biggest minority group in the country. Assuming that the proportion of Hindus in Pakistan’s total population remained the same, the number of Hindus in Pakistan, according to its latest census, would be around 3.3 million.


Since 1981 until the latest census, the Hindu population in Pakistan had grown 93 per cent. The Muslim population of Pakistan during the same period had increased one-and-a-half times. The Hindu population in India during the three-decade period from 1981 to 2011 grew by 72 per cent. Unlike Pakistan, India has always conducted and published its census on time. The Muslim population in India more than doubled during this period. Even though Muslim populations in both India and Pakistan more than doubled, the Muslim population in India grew at a relatively slow pace of 114 per cent. A majority of Pakistani Hindus live in the Sindh province of Pakistan.
Riaz Haq said…
No, Pakistan's non-Muslim population didn't decline from 23% to 3.7% as BJP claims
During the debate on the Citizenship Amendment Bill in Parliament, the BJP repeatedly claimed that population of religious minorities in Pakistan has declined from 23% in 1947 to 3.7% in 2011. Analysis of official data however shows this argument is faulty.


https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/pakistan-bangladesh-non-muslim-population-citizenship-amendment-bill-bjp-1627678-2019-12-12


Taking Pakistan's Census 1951 as benchmark for our analysis, we find that while raising the issue of religious persecution in Pakistan and Bangladesh, the BJP mixed-up data for the two regions.

Firstly, it said non-Muslims once comprised 23 per cent of Pakistan's population. The fact rather is that non-Muslims comprised 23 per cent of only East Pakistan's population, not the entire country. Taken together (East plus West Pakistan), share of non-Muslims was 14.20 per cent (the highest ever) in 1951.

Secondly, the BJP claimed that share of non-Muslims reduced from 23 per cent to 3.7 per cent in Pakistan. This too is incorrect because share of non-Muslims in Pakistan has hovered around 3.5 per cent from the first census onwards.

1951: 3.44 per cent
1961: 2.80 per cent
1972: 3.25 per cent
1981: 3.33 per cent
1998: 3.70 per cent

Thirdly, the BJP is correct in saying that the percentage share of non-Muslims has decreased significantly in Bangladesh. But it is wrong in saying that the decline was from 22 per cent to 7.8 per cent. As per official census data, the decline was from 23.20 per cent in 1951 to 9.40 per cent in 2011.

Fourthly, BJP has argued that religious persecution was the reason for decline of non-Muslim population in Bangladesh. There is no denying that religious minorities were brutally persecuted for decades in East Pakistan and later also in Bangladesh. It is a fact that hundreds of them were raped, murdered and forcibly converted into Islam.
Riaz Haq said…
In pictures: #Pakistani #Hindu community defy #coronavirus to celebrate #Holi2020 festival across the country. Thousands come out on streets to splash colours while #Muslim friends also join them https://gn24.ae/9897aec3eb00000


LAHORE: Members of Hindu community dancing and throwing colours during their Holi celebrations at Neela Gumbad G Sawami Temple in Lahore.

Holi celebrations in Lahore. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has sent his good wishes to the Hindu community on the occasion of their festival of Holi.

Pakistani Hindu celebrate the Holi festival in Karachi on March 9, 2020. Holi, the popular Hindu spring festival of colours is observed in India and across countries at the end of the winter season on the last full moon of the lunar month.

Members of Hindu community dancing and throwing colours during their Holi celebrations in Hyderabad. The festivities mainly happened in Hyderabad, the second largest city of southern province of Sindh. Temples were decorated with colours and special prayers were also offered there for development and prosperity of the country.

Jubilant Hindu community in Hyderabad during Holi celebrations. Holi marks the end of winter and the start of spring. This year, the Hindu community across the globe celebrated the day on March 9.
Riaz Haq said…
The women of Rator village in Pakistan’s province of Sindh celebrated a harvest this year. This was no ordinary harvest, and was five years in the making, requiring a huge amount of labour to nurture fruit trees in a water-scarce region. But any harvest in the desert areas of Umerkot district is special. This is a desert area, with little water available, and what little is available, is brackish.

The journey began in 2015 when 10 women planted 50 fruit berry (Jujube) trees grafted with indigenous wild berries. They received garden management trainings by Sami Foundation — a local civil society organisation — with the support of ActionAid-Pakistan and the Ariz Zone Research Institute (AZRI) Umerkot.

Each of the women is in charge of five trees. They spend two hours on every alternate day, watering the plants, weeding out grass and placing organic fertiliser


https://www.dawn.com/news/1536581

---------

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/222313-Kitchen-gardens-in-Thar-provide-safe-food-for-all-seasons

HYDERABAD: Women in the Thar Desert are picking the first harvest of vegetables that they had cultivated in their fenced communal kitchen gardens before the rains. The vegetables that have yielded in less than two months are tinda (round gourd) and guar (cluster bean), the most favourable food for the community often faced with food insecurity.

Other vegetable plants and edible leaves that usually grow after rains have also sprouted in the gardens, keeping the village women happy. Under the indigenous nutrition programme, initiated by a local Rural Development Association (RDA) in 13 villages of Tehsils Islamkot and Diplo of Tharparkar District, these women feel secured in terms of having safe food at their doorsteps.

They do not use any chemical inputs to grow food, and since the land is fertile and consumes little water, the gardeners continue the inspiring practice of planting kitchen gardens during winter as well.

Women in groups have prepared larger plots inside their fenced courtyards to cultivate vegetables and edibles leaves as well as trees to fight against the prolonged dry spells and delayed rains. The recent rains have already recharged water wells for domestic purposes and irrigating the small fields inside homes.

This nutrition-sensitive initiative intends to address the endemic issue of malnutrition in the district, which has been recognised as the topmost cause of high incidents of infant and maternal mortality in recent studies conducted by government and other humanitarian organisations.

The communities are already aware of sustainable use of water, which is the most essential, expensive and very scarce commodity in the desert. The people of this region encounter frequent dryness for many months, and pay a heavy price of the impacts of extreme weather conditions in the form of malnutrition, death, and hunger.

Muhammad Siddiq leading the RDA said the association gave technical assistance for land preparation, building protective fencing, and procurement of materials, watering equipment and seasonal vegetable seeds.
Riaz Haq said…
First #Hindu pilot in #Pakistan Air Force. Rahul Dev hails from #Tharparkar, the largest district in #Sindh province, where a large population of the Hindu community resides. | Pakistan – Gulf News

https://t.co/T4Wfd0NQZh?amp=1

Rahul Dev hails from Tharparkar, the largest district in Sindh province, where a large population of the Hindu community resides.

All Pakistan Hindu Panchayat Secretary Ravi Dawani expressed happiness over Dev’s appointment. He said many members of the minority community are serving in the civil service as well as the army. Many doctors in the country also belong to the Hindu community. He said that if the government continues to focus on the minorities, then in the coming days many Rahul Devs will be ready to serve the country.
Riaz Haq said…
Shanghai Electric distributes food
https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/661986-shanghai-electric-distributes-food

Shanghai Electric Group, the world's leading manufacturer and supplier of power generation and industrial equipment, has been providing regular food supplies to households living in villages located around its coal mining plant and power plant in Thar, a statement said on Thursday.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the lives of millions of people globally, the worst-hit are the underprivileged, who are now also faced with the looming threat of food shortages, it added.

In Pakistan too, this is one of the major causes of concern for the authorities, especially in remote areas of Thar in Sindh.

Sino Sindh Resource (Pvt) Ltd and Shanghai Electric Engineering Consulting Company, with its branch office in Karachi, carried out the third stage of the provision of food supplies to around 800 households in villages located in area where the Thar Block-1 Integrated Coal Mine-Power project is located.


Riaz Haq said…
Migration, small towns and social
transformations in Pakistan
ARIF HASAN


https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0956247809356180

Although Mithi was established as a settlement some 500 years ago, its
population in 1998 was only 19,524. However, today it has a population
of more than 50,000.(44) The reason for this increase is that in 1992,
Mithi was declared the headquarters of the newly created desert district
of Tharparkar. This was as a result of pressure from its politicians, who
justified such the move on the basis of an increase in population and
on the difficulties of travelling to Mirpurkhas, the district headquarters
before Tharparkar district was created. Mithi’s population also increased
because of road building projects, which have linked the town with the
other desert settlements and the irrigated areas of the Indus plains. As a
result, jobs have been created and a large number of businesses and desert
tourism have developed.
Because of the wars with India, as a result of which large areas of
Tharparkar were occupied by Pakistan in 1965 and by India in 1971, the
old Hindu-dominated caste and feudal system collapsed, with the result
that the artisanal castes were freed from serfdom. Since they, unlike
the peasants and herdsmen, possessed skills that were required by the
urban economy, many of them became economically well-off and have
subsequently become doctors, lawyers and NGO activists who are involved
in the political and development affairs of Mithi. The breakdown of the
old feudal system has also meant that families are now free to migrate to
Mithi from the rural areas. Recurring drought (the result of the collapse
of the old feudal system of resource management) has caused famine, and
rural families are heavily indebted; jobs in the urban areas are a way of
repaying debts. Migration to Mithi has also been triggered by the desire
of rural families (now freed from serfdom), especially the artisanal castes,
to educate their children and have better civic facilities, particularly for
the education of girls, which are not available in rural areas. There have
been instances where entire clans have migrated en masse to Mithi for
these reasons.(
Riaz Haq said…
As developed nations turn away from coal-fired power, Chinese funding has helped the dirtiest fossil fuel take off in Pakistan.


https://financialpost.com/pmn/business-pmn/china-push-sees-coal-fired-generation-rise-to-record-in-pakistan


Coal’s surge in the South Asian nation is symbolic of the difficult choice that the region’s developing countries face as they seek affordable energy to support economic growth while trying to limit chronic air pollution. Asian demand is expected to support the commodity as its usage drops in most of the developed world in a transition to cleaner or renewable energy sources.

Is Canada's real estate forecast too optimistic?



Pakistan’s coal-fired power generation jumped 57% to a record in the fiscal year through June, according to data from the government’s National Electric Power Regulatory Authority. Coal accounted for about a fifth of total output, backed by supplies from the country’s first coal mine in its Thar region, developed as part of China’s Belt and Road plan.

Coal is set to expand further as China pushes funds into building more power plants in the country and mines to feed them. Pakistan is one of the flagship markets for China’s Belt and Road initiative, with more than $70 billion of projects including coal and liquefied natural gas fired power plants helping the nation end decades of electricity shortfalls.


“China has been cutting back on coal at home but it has no compunction about using coal in things that it funds outside of China,” said James Dorsey, a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore. “Chinese can be willing but they need a partner to go along with them. In this case it’s the Pakistani government.”

Belt and Road progress has slowed recently with overseas energy spending last year dropping to the lowest in a decade, dogged by accusations that China is luring poor countries into debt traps for its own political and strategic gain. China’s President Xi Jinping has publicly urged more clean energy as part of the program, and the plan found new life in Pakistan recently with an agreement to build two hydro-power generation projects.

Until 2016, Pakistan had just one coal-burning power plant. It now has at least nine and more are in the making. The first target of these plants has been to replace expensive fuel oil-based generation facilities that burdened the nation’s economy with heavy costs and pollution.

The rise in coal power has come because of supplies from the Thar coal mine, Power Ministry spokesman Zafar Yab Khan said. The country will balance rising coal use with more renewable energy and its coal plants will use low-emissions technology, he said.


With the shift to coal, average generation costs dropped 11% during the fiscal year, according to data from Karachi-based brokerage Arif Habib.

“Pakistan has increased coal-based generation to make it its new base to replace its previous expensive fuel oil-powered power plants,” said Tahir Abbas, head of research at Arif Habib. “This has also helped bring down the power prices, energy import bill and increase the share of an indigenous energy source.”

July 30, 2020 at 6:36 PM
Riaz Haq said…
A Pakistani Hindu Said He Didn’t Want to Live in India. Here’s Why
Akhil Bakshi met a Hindu Pakistani on a flight. This is what he learnt, much to his surprise.

AKHIL BAKSHI

https://www.thequint.com/voices/blogs/citizenship-amendment-act-nrc-hindus-in-pakistan-religious-persecution-indian-govt


In August 2018, on my way back to India from Madagascar, I was off-loaded in Nairobi by Kenya Airways on two consecutive nights. On the second night, at the facilitation counter, I bumped into Ravi Kumar, a pleasant-looking and smartly attired man in his late twenties. After an hour of arguing with grim-faced, insensitive airline staff, I looked forward to engaging him in a refreshing conversation as we waited for the transport to drive us to our hotel.

As soon as we had exchanged pleasantries in Hindustani, he said, smiling wryly: “Let me clarify that I am not an Indian. I am a Pakistani.”

“A Hindu, no doubt,” exclaimed I.

“That's right,” he said, boldly.

‘It Must be Difficult for Your Family to Live in Pakistan?’
I looked him up and down, searching for scars on his face, grime in his hair, sadness in his eyes that revealed the fret in his heart. My mind was instantly filled with sorrow for my ‘long-suffering’ fellow Hindu who, surely, must be leading an ‘undignified’, ‘baleful’ existence in Pakistan. Weren't Hindus in Pakistan ‘thrown to the wolves’ by state tyranny? I wanted Ravi Kumar to share his agonies, and that of other helpless victims, with me.

“It must be difficult for your family to live in Pakistan?” I asked a leading question.

“On the contrary, we are extremely happy there,” he retorted, astonishing me.

“Are you not discriminated against?”

“Not at all! We feel like equal citizens. My family lives in Karachi and nobody has ever bothered us. We are a successful business family trading in rice.”
“But isn't the Hindu community in Pakistan generally impoverished?”

“Not in Karachi. We are probably the most prosperous community. The entire rice trade — milling, retail and wholesale — is controlled by Hindus. They all live in great comfort. I have relocated to Benin — from where I supply rice to West Africa.”

‘I’m a Pakistani at Heart. India is the Last Place I Want to Migrate to’
“Haven't you ever thought about relocating to India? Do you not want to free yourself of a dismal, perilous existence in Pakistan and migrate to India to seek succour of freedom and a liberal democracy?” I asked.

He looked at me with a hard stare but replied politely: “You are trying to put words into my mouth. Firstly, our life in Pakistan is not miserable. We are very much a part of the mainstream. I am a Pakistani at heart. Secondly, India is the last place I would like to migrate to. I have been to Bombay thrice — to source rice for West Africa — as Pakistan did not have enough surplus for export. All three times it has been a dreadful experience. Right from the time you land, you are questioned and hounded as if you are a terrorist. I had to report to the police station every day. And all that the authorities did was to pick my pockets. I spent most of my time waiting at police stations than at business meetings. I don't like the undignified way I am treated in India. Now I am on my way to source rice from Thailand — over-flying India.”

‘Pakistani Hindus Didn’t Find Kinship or Compassion in India’
“However, many Pakistani Hindus do want to migrate to India — to enjoy some measure of freedom that is proffered in my country,” I interjected.

“Perhaps. But those who went to India did not find any trace of kinship or compassion. The government provided no assistance to resettle. The lower caste Hindus were not allowed to pray in the temples. They can’t drink from the same well as the upper castes. Before you call Pakistan intolerant and petty, you should think about the bigotry in your own country.”

“I am told all Hindu temples have been vandalised...”

“A few were, some years ago, as a reaction to the demolition of some big mosque in India.”

“Babri Masjid.”

“Maybe. I don’t follow Indian news.”

Riaz Haq said…
A Pakistani Hindu Said He Didn’t Want to Live in India. Here’s Why
Akhil Bakshi met a Hindu Pakistani on a flight. This is what he learnt, much to his surprise.

AKHIL BAKSHI

https://www.thequint.com/voices/blogs/citizenship-amendment-act-nrc-hindus-in-pakistan-religious-persecution-indian-govt

Not a ‘Genuine’ Representative of Pakistani Hindus?
Despite my interventions to ‘poison’ his mind, he stood firm. I was disappointed. He was not saying the words I wanted to hear. I concluded that he was not a ‘genuine’ representative of Pakistani Hindus, and that his business interests did not allow him to bow too much against his government.

It did not cross my mind that he could have been sincerely faithful to his country.
As I write, I am reminded of my visit to Pakistan in 1997. Fifty years after Partition, I had taken my mother to Dalwal, her parental village in District Jhelum. (Call of Dalwal, a YouTube video, has had over 61,000 hits with hundreds of Pakistanis posting sentimental comments).

From there we went to Karyala, the village of her paternal grandparents. In torch light we saw their expansive house, now a ruin and located close to the samadhi of Baba Praga, a notable figure of my paternal Chibber clan, a disciple of Guru Nanak, a mentor to the next five Gurus, and was killed in 1638 fighting against the forces of Paindah Khan, the governor of Lahore. Three old Muslim villagers who were guiding us insisted that we visit the house of the sarpanch, the village headman. “He is a Hindu,” they said, “and not a leaf moves in this village without his permission.”

BJP Govt Should Help Pakistan Evolve Rather Than Making India ‘Medieval’
Regardless of my positive experience or what Ravi Kumar said, it is true that religious minorities are persecuted in Pakistan, just as minorities are persecuted in many other parts of the world.

The BJP-led government of India, instead of influencing Pakistan to evolve into a more liberal society, is bent on making India as ‘medieval’ as its neighbour.
Under the guise of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC), the government’s intent seems to be to ‘spite’ Muslims, to take away their citizenship and rights, including voting rights. Traditionally, Muslims have voted en masse and en bloc for the party best placed to defeat the BJP. With the voting rights of millions of Muslims taken away, it will be ‘ADVANTAGE BJP’ all the way to the state assemblies and the parliament.


A Pakistani Hindu Said He Didn’t Want to Live in India. Here’s Why
Akhil Bakshi met a Hindu Pakistani on a flight. This is what he learnt, much to his surprise.

Image of Pakistan flag and a Hindu man used for representational purposes.Image of Pakistan flag and a Hindu man used for representational purposes.

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In August 2018, on my way back to India from Madagascar, I was off-loaded in Nairobi by Kenya Airways on two consecutive nights. On the second night, at the facilitation counter, I bumped into Ravi Kumar, a pleasant-looking and smartly attired man in his late twenties. After an hour of arguing with grim-faced, insensitive airline staff, I looked forward to engaging him in a refreshing conversation as we waited for the transport to drive us to our hotel.

As soon as we had exchanged pleasantries in Hindustani, he said, smiling wryly: “Let me clarify that I am not an Indian. I am a Pakistani.”

“A Hindu, no doubt,” exclaimed I.

“That's right,” he said, boldly.

‘It Must be Difficult for Your Family to Live in Pakistan?’
I looked him up and down, searching for scars on his face, grime in his hair, sadness in his eyes that revealed the fret in his heart. My mind was instantly filled with sorrow for my ‘long-suffering’ fellow Hindu who, surely, must be leading an ‘undignified’, ‘baleful’ existence in Pakistan. Weren't Hindus in Pakistan ‘thrown to the wolves’ by state tyranny? I wanted Ravi Kumar to share his agonies, and that of other helpless victims, with me.

Riaz Haq said…
A Pakistani Hindu Said He Didn’t Want to Live in India. Here’s Why
Akhil Bakshi met a Hindu Pakistani on a flight. This is what he learnt, much to his surprise.

AKHIL BAKSHI

https://www.thequint.com/voices/blogs/citizenship-amendment-act-nrc-hindus-in-pakistan-religious-persecution-indian-govt

I looked him up and down, searching for scars on his face, grime in his hair, sadness in his eyes that revealed the fret in his heart. My mind was instantly filled with sorrow for my ‘long-suffering’ fellow Hindu who, surely, must be leading an ‘undignified’, ‘baleful’ existence in Pakistan. Weren't Hindus in Pakistan ‘thrown to the wolves’ by state tyranny? I wanted Ravi Kumar to share his agonies, and that of other helpless victims, with me.

“It must be difficult for your family to live in Pakistan?” I asked a leading question.

“On the contrary, we are extremely happy there,” he retorted, astonishing me.

“Are you not discriminated against?”

“Not at all! We feel like equal citizens. My family lives in Karachi and nobody has ever bothered us. We are a successful business family trading in rice.”
“But isn't the Hindu community in Pakistan generally impoverished?”

“Not in Karachi. We are probably the most prosperous community. The entire rice trade — milling, retail and wholesale — is controlled by Hindus. They all live in great comfort. I have relocated to Benin — from where I supply rice to West Africa.”

‘I’m a Pakistani at Heart. India is the Last Place I Want to Migrate to’
“Haven't you ever thought about relocating to India? Do you not want to free yourself of a dismal, perilous existence in Pakistan and migrate to India to seek succour of freedom and a liberal democracy?” I asked.

He looked at me with a hard stare but replied politely: “You are trying to put words into my mouth. Firstly, our life in Pakistan is not miserable. We are very much a part of the mainstream. I am a Pakistani at heart. Secondly, India is the last place I would like to migrate to. I have been to Bombay thrice — to source rice for West Africa — as Pakistan did not have enough surplus for export. All three times it has been a dreadful experience. Right from the time you land, you are questioned and hounded as if you are a terrorist. I had to report to the police station every day. And all that the authorities did was to pick my pockets. I spent most of my time waiting at police stations than at business meetings. I don't like the undignified way I am treated in India. Now I am on my way to source rice from Thailand — over-flying India.”

‘Pakistani Hindus Didn’t Find Kinship or Compassion in India’
“However, many Pakistani Hindus do want to migrate to India — to enjoy some measure of freedom that is proffered in my country,” I interjected.

“Perhaps. But those who went to India did not find any trace of kinship or compassion. The government provided no assistance to resettle. The lower caste Hindus were not allowed to pray in the temples. They can’t drink from the same well as the upper castes. Before you call Pakistan intolerant and petty, you should think about the bigotry in your own country.”

“I am told all Hindu temples have been vandalised...”

“A few were, some years ago, as a reaction to the demolition of some big mosque in India.”

“Babri Masjid.”

“Maybe. I don’t follow Indian news.”


Not a ‘Genuine’ Representative of Pakistani Hindus?
Despite my interventions to ‘poison’ his mind, he stood firm. I was disappointed. He was not saying the words I wanted to hear. I concluded that he was not a ‘genuine’ representative of Pakistani Hindus, and that his business interests did not allow him to bow too much against his government.

It did not cross my mind that he could have been sincerely faithful to his country.
As I write, I am reminded of my visit to Pakistan in 1997. Fifty years after Partition, I had taken my mother to Dalwal, her parental village in District Jhelum. (Call of Dalwal, a YouTube video, has had over 61,000 hits with hundreds of Pakistanis posting sentimental comments).

Riaz Haq said…
Most of #Pakistan's #Hindus are of lower caste #untouchables. When they migrate to #India, they face discrimination. They can not enter #Hindu temples, and assaulted for drinking from the community water well. India is no Hindu paradise for them. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/05/world/asia/pakistan-hindu-india-modi.html

This is not the Hindu paradise they had crossed the border to join, they said. This is not the India Mr. Modi promised them.

Mr. Bheel is wracked by doubt, the same doubt his grandfather had when he chose to keep the family in Pakistan during partition. Did he make the right choice?

He left his home and siblings in Karachi, trading a lucrative job as an administrator of a medical clinic there to live as a migrant in India. His medical diploma, one of the few possessions he brought with him, hangs proudly on a wall, although it is not valid in India. He struggles to make ends meet here.

“You take these decisions sometimes out of excitement for what your life could be,” Mr. Bheel said, his daughter cuddling beside him on a bench. “Then you arrive and realize it’s much different on the ground.”

Mr. Bheel looked on as his wife struggled to contain rainwater leaking from the ceiling, after a monsoon swiftly obliterated the sunny sky. Eventually she gave up, running out of pots and buckets.

“Maybe this wasn’t the right decision for me,” he said. “But maybe my children will look back and say, ‘My father made the right choice.’”
----------------

Bhagchand Bheel is one of the disappointed. When he migrated to India in 2014, he was grateful to leave the violence and pressure of Karachi, Pakistan’s commercial hub. He boarded the Thar Express to Zero Point Station, the last stop before the border, where he and his family lugged their bags by foot into India, settling in a camp in the city of Jodhpur.

He was among his people, he thought, and could finally be free. But he is of a lower caste, and when he tried to enter a Hindu temple, he was barred entry by the priest because of it, he said. And when a friend tried to drink from the community water well, he was physically assaulted by upper caste Brahmins who accused him of polluting it.

“In Pakistan, the only thing that matters is if you are Hindu or Muslim,” said Mr. Bheel, whose last name is derived from his tribe. “Because we are Hindus, in Pakistan we were discriminated against. But in India, I face discrimination because I’m a Bheel.”


Like many Pakistani Hindus, Mr. Bheel migrated after Mr. Modi came to power in 2014, after a long campaign promoting Hindu nationalism.

Muslims in India say life has gotten progressively harder for them, too. Mr. Modi’s government is accused of turning a blind eye to the scores of Muslim men lynched by Hindu mobs. When an 8-year old Muslim girl was gang raped and killed in Kashmir last year by Hindu men, local police officers allegedly helped cover up the crime.

But despite the discrimination Muslims face in India, they do not tend to migrate to Pakistan in the numbers their Hindu counterparts in Pakistan do. Indian Muslims tend to migrate to the West instead.

In the Al Kausar Nagar migrant camp in Jodhpur, huts made out of thin, wispy branches, like birds’ nests, nestle in clusters, with quilts with vibrant Pakistani tribal designs hanging off their sides.

Bands of Pakistani Hindu women crouch over unfinished quilts, stitching away, hoping to sell them in the market to wealthier Indians. They complain that they receive little government assistance, siphoning what little electricity and water they can off municipal lines, and that the quality of public schooling for their children is not as good as it is in Pakistan, a main source of grievance for the many who migrated to give their children better opportunities.
Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan to lay 105 Km new #railway track to transport Thar #coal to be ready by June 2022 with the initial capacity of carrying 3.80 million tons/year (MTPA) of coal from Thar coal mine. By 2025 it will transport 10.80 million tons/year. #Sindh #energy https://nation.com.pk/24-Aug-2020/govt-decides-to-lay-new-railway-track-for-supply-of-thar-coal

The project will require around 1600 Acres of land and it will be operational by June 2022 with the initial capacity of carrying 3.80 MTPA coal from Thar coal mine. By 2025 it will have the capacity to transport 10.80 MTPA coal, the source said. The cost of laying of 105-kilometer long new railway line from Thar coal mines to Chhor station on Hyderabad-Mirpurekhas, Khokhropar section of Pakistan railway is around Rs24.50 billion, cost of rolling stock is Rs65 billion, O&M cost is Rs4 billion and cost of improvement of the existing 149 KM track from Hyderabad to new Chhor station is Rs3.8 billion. The source said that rail transportation of coal from Thar mines is the most feasible and three times cheaper option as compared to road transportation. The project will help saving foreign exchange reserves of $432 million per annum which can increase up to $1.2 billion per annum at ultimate mine capacity. Moreover the transportation by rail will protect the road infrastructure from damage and will save the environment.
Riaz Haq said…
Best of 2019: A woman farmer shows the way |The Third Pole


https://www.thethirdpole.net/2019/12/25/best-of-2019-a-woman-farmer-shows-the-way/

https://www2.unwomen.org/-/media/field%20office%20eseasia/docs/publications/2018/08/status-of-the-rural-women-in-pakistan-report.pdf?la=en&vs=3739

Almas Perween may seem diminutive, but a great deal of responsibility rests on her shoulders. She is a farmer, and a trainer of farmers, a big responsibility for a woman from a village whose name is just a number – Chak #224/EB. Her farm is about 100 kilometres from the historic city of Multan, in the Vehari district of Pakistan’s Punjab province. In many ways Perween epitomises this year’s International Women’s Day’s theme of “Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change”, putting innovation by women and girls, for women and girls, at the heart of efforts to achieve gender equality.

Challenging gender roles

“Why is cotton-picking always a woman’s job?” was the first thing I heard her say. The question carried within it the challenge to traditional gender roles. While Perween is happy to take on the mantle of what is traditionally seen as men’s work, her question took this further, asking why men cannot do what is traditionally done by women.

It has long been said that the soft, fluffy staple fibre of cotton that grows in a boll can only be picked by women’s dainty hands. Perween refused to accept this, claiming it was “just an excuse not to work”.

“It’s literally back-breaking work and takes a heavy health toll on the women,” she said. Drawing from her experience, she added, “village women work longer hours in a day than men”.

Her experience is borne out by research done elsewhere. A 2018 report on the status of rural women in Pakistan said agricultural work has undergone “feminization” employing nearly 7.2 million rural women, and becoming the largest employer of Pakistani women workers. Yet their multidimensional work with “lines between work for economic gain and work as extension of household chores (livestock management) and on the family farm” are blurred and “does not get captured”.
The report pointed out that for women in the agricultural sector (primarily concentrated in dairy and livestock) the “returns to labour are low: only 40% are in paid employment and 60% work as unpaid workers on family farms and enterprises. Their unpaid work is valued (using comparative median wages) at PKR 683 billion (USD 5.5 billion), is 57% of all work done by women, and is 2.6% of GDP of the country.”

Cotton is one of the many crops grown on Perween’s fields. She manages 23 acres of farmland (of which eight acres belong to her mother). With her brother – three years her senior – the family grows maize, wheat, sugarcane and cotton.

-----------------
Despite the success, it has not always been easy for Perween to take the risks she has. She has been lucky to have the full backing of her family. It is not just her brother’s trust, but also her father’s firm support in the face of criticism from both villagers and the wider family, that has helped her find her own path.

“It has not been easy,” she said, “but it is not impossible either,” Perween says, with a note of triumph in her voice.

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