Rural Pakistan: New Infrastructure Driving Socioeconomic Revolution in Tharparkar

In a 2018 New York Times Op Ed titled "How Not to Engage With Pakistan",  ex US Ambassador to Pakistan Richard G. Olson wrote: "Its (CPEC's) magnitude and its transformation of parts of Pakistan dwarf anything the United States has ever undertaken". Among the parts of Pakistan being transformed by China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) are some of the least developed regions in Balochistan and Sindh, specifically Gwadar and Thar Desert. Over 70% of Thar desert's population is Hindu. 

Tharparkar: Road Built Under CPEC. Source: Emmanuel Guddu

More recently, Pakistani architect and social activist Arif Hasan has detailed the socioeconomic impact of new infrastructure in Tharparkar district, further reinforcing what Ambassador Olson wrote about how CPEC is transforming Pakistan's least developed areas. In his book titled "Tharparkar: Drought, Development, and Social Change", author Arif Hasan has highlighted the following (excerpted from Arif Hasan's recent piece published in Dawn):

1, New roads, airports, solar panels, cell towers and mobile phones are opening up opportunities for employment, entrepreneurship, education and healthcare for the Thari population. 

2. New infrastructure is empowering Thari women to challenge the long established patriarchy in Tharparkar. A major change has occurred in gender relations — males are less restrictive; there is an increase in education and hygiene; women now move around without male escorts. Women are giving up old traditional clothes for more fashionable dresses. 

3. Road construction in Thar that started in the Musharraf era (2000-2008)  has made transportation cheaper and easier. Before these new roads, the old six-wheeler kekra (WW II era American Army truck) was the only mode of vehicular transportation in the desert.  It was slow and expensive. It has now been replaced by normal Bedford trucks which are cheaper to run.   

4.  Bank loans to buy taxis are now available. Number of taxis operating in Thar has increased from 150 to over 400, while the qingqis in Mithi have increased from over 150 to over 300 since 2013. 

5. The old kekras (old American Army 6-wheelers) have been converted into water tankers; people can now actually order one by phone, to pick up potable water from Mithi and deliver it to villages. 

6. The new roads have helped substantially increase trade and commerce.  Thar’s agricultural produce now reaches distant markets — six to seven trucks per day carry onions from Nagarparkar to Lahore, and vegetables and fruit from other parts of Sindh and Punjab are now easily available in Thar.  

7. Roads have helped in the increase of salt and china clay mining. These have created more jobs, especially for those villages that are next to the mines. The lives of the families who have benefitted from this growth in the job market have changed and the first investments they make is in the building of pakka houses, with steel channel and brick-tiled roofs. Another important investment is in motorbikes, which makes flexible and faster mobility possible. People have sold their camels and donkeys to buy motorbikes.

8. Thari men now work in the garment industry in Karachi, where they save and send home Rs 10-12,000 a month.

9. Tourist traffic has grown in Thar with tens of thousands of people visiting the area every year after the rains and for the many religious festivals that the desert celebrates. Women producing traditional handicrafts are able to sell their wares to the tourists.  This creates economic opportunities for the local population. 

10. Dozens of carpentry workshops are now operating in Mithi. The carpenters have moved in from the rural areas of Thar, where they worked for the rural population, who paid them in grain. 

11. Number of retail stores has also increased — in Mithi there were 20 to 25 grocery stores in 2015, as opposed to seven or eight 10 years earlier. Earlier, the store owners used to travel to Hyderabad to buy goods but, today, because of the road and mobile phone, they just order the items from Karachi and the transporter delivers them. The clients at the stores are both rural and urban.

12. Access to healthcare units in district capital Mithi is a lot easier and faster, and has been of special importance in maternity-related cases.

13. With the construction of new roads, the villagers are now more willing to send their children to school, including girls, because schools are easier to access. 

Back in 2018, I wrote a post titled "CPEC is Transforming Least Developed Parts of Pakistan". Below is an except that talks about Thar development: 

Thar Desert:

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 camels. 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.

Comments

Riaz Haq said…
Designing Multilingual Classrooms: The Case of Tharparkar
Minha Khan
Stanford University


Urdu: National Language. Perhaps the most interesting finding was the strong presence of Urdu as an aspired language. Research suggests that native Sindhi speakers have a negative attitude towards Urdu because of the political history of the two languages (Siddiqui 2011, Akbar Zaidi 1991). However, not only did Urdu rank as the second language respondents most wanted to improve or learn, they also expressed a fondness towards the language. In a focus group conducted with Thar school teachers, they explained that Urdu was the national language and they were proud of it.
There are two possible explanations for the lack of tension between Sindhi and Urdu found in our research. Firstly, the works which claim that there is a tension between the two languages have used the method of historical and political analysis to define the relationship between the languages (Rahman, 1995; Akbar Zaidi 1991). The studies which claim tension between Urdu and Sindhi have been purely political and theoretical. My research adds a more personal angle to this debate but surveying individuals in the current era about their feelings towards both languages. It is possible that the historical and political stresses are now slowly dissolving as individuals are developing a sense of nationalism, or have the hopes of working with communities that do not speak only Sindhi. Articles published about the topic in the early/mid-90s may no longer hold true.
Secondly, it is also possible that the positionality of the researchers impacted the answers received (Appendix B). Some of the surveys were administered as an oral sociolinguistic survey for individuals who were not able to read the printed surveys. This means that the respondents were directly reporting to the researchers who were all from Karachi: a predominantly Urdu-speaking, urban city in Pakistan. The researcher effect may have led them to provide answers that the researchers “expected”. However, given the overwhelming favorable responses towards Urdu, and the comfort levels of the respondents during the oral surveys, we would argue that this is not the sole reason for Urdu being a highly aspired language.
Future Language Trends: Preferences of Parents and Employers. In order to understand the future language trajectory of the Thari people, we asked parents and employers how they envisioned the “languages of Thar in the future”. More specifically, we asked them what languages they would want their children to know and/or employees to be trained in. Figure 3 notes that the language of dominance remains English. However, there is also a strong presence of Urdu and Sindhi, along with some mention of Dhatki and Parkari, two tribal languages of Thar. This suggests that respondents want to hold on to their mother
Riaz Haq said…
بلوچستان: دیہی خواتین کا اسلام آباد سے آن لائن علاج

https://www.independenturdu.com/node/124601?utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Twitter#Echobox=1672283178-1

ایک غیر سرکاری ادارے نے بلوچستان کے 14 شہروں میں ٹیلی ہیلتھ سینٹرز قائم کیے ہیں، جہاں دوردراز علاقوں سے آنے والی خواتین کا علاج اسلام آباد میں بیٹھے ڈاکٹر کرتے ہیں۔

بلوچستان کے ضلع موسیٰ خیل کے پہاڑی گاؤں لوغی سے تعلق رکھنے والی عمر رسیدہ خاتون بی بی سارہ اپنی حاملہ بہو کو شہر لائی ہیں، جہاں کے طبی مرکز میں اسلام آباد سے ایک گائناکالوجسٹ ان کا آن لائن معائنہ کرتی ہیں۔

روایتی بشتون لباس میں ملبوس 50 سالہ بی بی سارہ نے انڈپینڈنٹ اردو کو بتایا کہ ان کے گاؤں کے کلینک میں ڈاکٹر نہیں ہوتے بلکہ غیر تربیت یافتہ دائیاں علاج کرتی ہیں، جو ان سے پیسے بھی لیتی ہیں۔

انہوں نے مزید بتایا کہ ’یہاں ڈاکٹر بھی بڑی ہے اور پیسے بھی نہیں لیتے، علاج بھی بہت اچھا ہوتا ہے۔‘

بی بی سارہ ان ہزاروں خواتین میں سے ایک ہیں، جو علاج کے اخراجات برداشت نہیں کرسکتیں اور نہ ہی علاج کروانے کے لیے کسی متصل بڑے شہر کا سفر کر سکتی ہیں۔


بلوچستان میں دو ہزار کی آبادی کے لیے صرف ایک ڈاکٹر موجود ہے۔ اس خلا کو پورا کرنے کے لیے نیم سرکاری ادارے پیپلز پرائمری ہیلتھ کیئر انیشی ایٹو (پی پی ایچ آئی) کی جانب سے ٹیلی ہیلتھ سینٹر کا قیام عمل میں لایا گیا ہے، جہاں بچوں اور خواتین مریضوں کا وفاقی دارالحکومت اسلام آباد کے ماہر ڈاکٹروں سے ویڈیو لنک کے ذریعے معائنہ اور علاج کرایا جاتا ہے۔

مرکز میں کام کرنے والی ایل ایچ وی زرمینہ کا کہنا تھا کہ یہاں ان کے پاس گائنی، سکن اور دیگر امراض کے مریض آتے ہیں۔

’ہم مریضوں کی ہسٹری لے کر ڈاکٹر کو بھیجتے ہیں، وہ ادویات تجویز کرتی ہیں، جس کے بعد فارمیسی سے مریضوں کو مفت ادویات فراہم کی جاتی ہیں۔‘

ڈسٹرکٹ سپورٹ مینیجر پی پی ایچ آئی سید امان شاہ نے انڈپینڈنٹ اردو کو بتایا کہ ٹیلی ہیلتھ سینٹر کا قیام گذشتہ سال جون میں عمل میں لایا گیا، جس کا بنیادی مقصد صوبے کے دور دراز علاقوں میں لوگوں کو ان کی دہلیز پر طبی سہولیات فراہم کرنا ہے۔

انہوں نے بتایا کہ ’صوبے میں قائم 14 ٹیلی ہیلتھ سینٹرز میں گائناکالوجسٹ، ماہرامراض جلد، جنرل فزیشن اور دیگر ڈاکٹرز موجود ہیں۔‘

جنوبی پنجاب سے متصل ضلع موسیٰ خیل کا شمار بلوچستان کے ان پسماندہ و دور دراز اضلاع میں ہوتا ہے، جہاں کے لوگ صحت، تعلیم اور پینے کے صاف پانی سمیت تمام بنیادی ضروریات زندگی سے محروم ہیں۔

اس ضلع میں سڑک اور ٹرانسپورٹ کی سہولت کی عدم موجودگی کے باعث زچگی کے دوران اکثر خواتین دم توڑ جاتی ہیں، جبکہ نوزائیدہ بچوں میں غذائی قلت کی شرح بھی دیگر اضلاع سے کئی گنا زیادہ ہے، جس کی بنیادی وجہ غربت اور کم شرح خواندگی بتائی جاتی ہیں۔
Riaz Haq said…
Thar is solution to Pakistan's energy crisis, says Murad Ali Shah

https://arynews.tv/thar-solution-pakistans-energy-crisis-murad-ali-shah/

“Chinese cooperation has proved a landmark in power generation from coal deposits in Thar,” chief minister said. “Chinese companies are increasing power generation from coal in Thar,” he further said.

Pakistan facing a formidable energy crisis that has badly affected economy of the country. The government sees energy generation from massive coal deposits in Sindh’s desert district of Thar could address the country’s energy problems.

Sindh’s Energy Minister Imtiaz Ahmed Shaikh recently announced an additional 1320 Megawatt of electricity from the Thar coal power plant included in the national grid.

He said the trial run to generate 1320 megawatts of electricity from the Shanghai Electric power plant was started today. Meanwhile, 660 MW of electricity has been added from Engro and Hubco power plants.

Sindh energy minister, while talking about the full potential of the coal power project said that a total of 2640 MW of electricity will be supplied to the National Grid from Thar coal soon.


Riaz Haq said…
330MW from Thar coal added to national grid

https://tribune.com.pk/story/2393593/330mw-from-thar-coal-added-to-national-grid

HYDERABAD:
Hub Power Company Limited (HUBCO)’s 330-megawatt (MW) power plant, fired by Tharparkar’s coal, formally started supplying electricity to the national grid on Friday in Islamkot. Inaugurated by the Minister of State, Mahesh Malani, this fresh addition of 330MW will take Thar’s coal contribution to power generation up to 3,000MW.

Riaz Haq said…
Mismanagement complicates Pakistan’s long recovery from deadly floods

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/mismanagement-complicates-pakistans-long-recovery-from-deadly-floods


Fred de Sam Lazaro:

For decades, Karachi has been a magnet for migrants from conflict and climate disasters. Decades ago, it ran out of room. Dotting the city's outskirts are clusters of ramshackle dwellings. These have stood since the 2010 floods.

Less than a mile away, crammed under high-voltage power lines, a 2022 wave of settlers.

Sikhandar Chandio, Flood Victim (through translator):

When the water came, it came all of a sudden at night. We just managed to get out with whatever we could and had to abandon our animals.

Fred de Sam Lazaro:

Sikhandar Chandio and his wife, Sughra, were sharecropper farmers. They escaped with their four children, and were able to save one cow. They journeyed here on foot, which took a week.

Sughra Chandio, Flood Victim (through translator):

Everything was underwater. There were no facilities. There was no help, no food.

Fred de Sam Lazaro:

Today, they rely on a patchwork of charities, everyone overwhelmed by what U.N. officials describe as one of the worst climate disasters on record, slamming a country that contributes less than 1 percent of the world's greenhouse gases.

Shehbaz Sharif, Pakistani Prime Minister (through translator):

We have mobilized every available resource towards the national relief effort, and repurposed all budget priorities.

Fred de Sam Lazaro:

Pakistan took the lead at this year's COP 27 climate conference, helping to secure agreement on a loss and damage fund to help developing nations cope.

Just how those funds, if they appear, will be used is a concern.

Kaiser Bengali, Former Adviser, Pakistan Ministry of Planning and Development: But there is a fair amount of manmade responsibility for these floods, and politics plays a big part.

Fred de Sam Lazaro:

Kaiser Bengali was a government adviser during the 2010 floods, Pakistan's worst until 2022.

Kaiser Bengali:

I think it is also important to see how this fund will be utilized and how it will be implemented and whether the sociopolitical structures and the planning structures that need to be changed, made more effective happens.

Fred de Sam Lazaro:

The 1,800-mile-long Indus River, lifeblood of Pakistan's agriculture sector, has been extensively engineered with dams and canals, beginning during British colonial times and ramping up in the 1960s with loans and advisers from international lending agencies.

Has it been, in terms of food production, a reasonably good investment?

Kaiser Bengali:

Certainly. Lands where not even a blade of grass grew now produce two crops a year. It's just that one has to manage this better.

Ahmed Kamal, Chairman, Pakistan Federal Flood Commission:

Governance structure is not good.
Riaz Haq said…
Flooding triggers fresh migrations in Sindh
Thousands leave Dadu district as floodwaters surround Dadu city

https://tribune.com.pk/story/2376125/flooding-triggers-fresh-migrations-in-sindh


KARACHI:
Thousands of panicked citizens have left a densely-populated district in Pakistan, following a fresh spell of floods, adding to the growing number of displaced people, officials and local media reported on Sunday.

The Dadu district of Sindh province has been surrounded by floodwaters, leaving only one passage for the residents to leave the city as the water level in Manchar Lake, the country's largest freshwater body, is continuously rising.

Gushing floodwaters have washed away the first defence line of the city – home to over one million people – forcing the administration backed by the army troops to strengthen the remaining embankments, local media reported.

Footage aired on local TV channels showed thousands of stranded people lodged in tents or under open skies along the main highway that leads to Hyderabad, the second largest district of Sindh after Karachi.

Either side of the highway could be seen inundated in floodwaters for miles.

Another footage showed hundreds of flapped citizens, on mini trucks, wagons, and auto rickshaws, leaving the city. Many others along with their livestock were also spotted trudging along the road under the baking sun.

The huge flooding also forced the administration to shift nearly 400 prisoners from Dadu district jail to the Hyderabad prison.

Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah told reporters on Sunday that the rescue agencies are trying their best to save the city.

The recent downpours – 500% higher than average – and massive floods have left 125 million people homeless in Sindh alone, aside from causing a colossal loss of Rs350 billion ($1.5 billion) to agriculture and another Rs50 billion ($221 million) to the livestock.

The severity of the situation also prompted Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa to air dash to the literally besieged Dadu city on Saturday evening, directing the troops to accelerate the relief and rescue operations.

Riaz Haq said…
Library thrives in Pakistan’s ‘wild west’ gun market town
‘Men look beautiful with jewel of knowledge, beauty lies not in arms but in education’

https://gulfnews.com/world/asia/pakistan/library-thrives-in-pakistans-wild-west-gun-market-town-1.93291085

DARRA ADAMKHEL, Pakistan: When the din of Pakistan’s most notorious weapons market becomes overwhelming, arms dealer Mohammad Jahanzeb slinks away from his stall, past colleagues test-firing machine guns, to read in the hush of the local library.

“It’s my hobby, my favourite hobby, so sometimes I sneak off,” the 28-year-old told AFP after showing off his inventory of vintage rifles, forged assault weapons and a menacing array of burnished flick-knives.

“I’ve always wished that we would have a library here, and my wish has come true.”

The town of Darra Adamkhel is part of the deeply conservative tribal belt where decades of militancy and drug-running in the surrounding mountains earned it a reputation as a “wild west” waypoint between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

It has long been known for its black market bazaars stocked with forged American rifles, replica revolvers and rip-off AK-47s.


But a short walk away a town library is thriving by offering titles including Virginia Woolf’s classic “Mrs Dalloway”, instalments in the teenage vampire romance series “Twilight”, and “Life, Speeches and Letters” by Abraham Lincoln.

“Initially we were discouraged. People asked, ‘What is the use of books in a place like Darra Adamkhel? Who would ever read here?’” recalled 36-year-old founder Raj Mohammad.

“We now have more than 500 members.”

Tribal transformation
Literacy rates in the tribal areas, which were semi-autonomous until 2018 when they merged with the neighbouring province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, are among the lowest in Pakistan as a result of poverty, patriarchal values, inter-clan conflicts and a lack of schools.


But attitudes are slowing changing, believes soft-spoken 33-year-old volunteer librarian Shafiullah Afridi: “Especially among the younger generation who are now interested in education instead of weapons.”

“When people see young people in their neighbourhood becoming doctors and engineers, others also start sending their children to school,” said Afridi, who has curated a ledger of 4,000 titles in three languages - English, Urdu and Pashto.

Despite the background noise of gunsmiths testing weapons and hammering bullets into dusty patches of earth nearby, the atmosphere is genteel as readers sip endless rounds of green tea while they muse over texts.

However, Afridi struggles to strictly enforce a “no weapons allowed” policy during his shift.

One young arms dealer saunters up to the pristinely painted salmon-coloured library, leaving his AK-47 at the door but keeping his sidearm strapped on his waist, and joins a gaggle of bookworms browsing the shelves.

Alongside tattered Tom Clancy, Stephen King and Michael Crichton paperbacks, there are more weighty tomes detailing the history of Pakistan and India and guides for civil service entrance exams, as well as a wide selection of Islamic teachings.

‘Education not arms’
Libraries are rare in Pakistan’s rural areas, and the few that exist in urban centres are often poorly stocked and infrequently used.

In Darra Adamkhel, it began as a solitary reading room in 2018 stocked with Mohammad’s personal collection, above one of the hundreds of gun shops in the central bazaar.

“You could say we planted the library on a pile of weapons,” said Mohammad - a prominent local academic, poet and teacher hailing from a long line of gunsmiths.

Riaz Haq said…
Library thrives in Pakistan’s ‘wild west’ gun market town
‘Men look beautiful with jewel of knowledge, beauty lies not in arms but in education’

https://gulfnews.com/world/asia/pakistan/library-thrives-in-pakistans-wild-west-gun-market-town-1.93291085


Mohammad paid 2,500 rupees ($11) for the monthly rent, but bibliophiles struggled to concentrate amidst the whirring of lathes and hammering of metal as bootleg armourers plied their trade downstairs.

The project swiftly outgrew the confines of a single room and was shifted a year later to a purpose-built single-storey building funded by the local community on donated land.

“There was once a time when our young men adorned themselves with weapons like a kind of jewellery,” said Irfanullah Khan, 65, patriarch of the family who gifted the plot.

“But men look beautiful with the jewel of knowledge, beauty lies not in arms but in education,” said Khan, who also donates his time alongside his son Afridi.

For the general public a library card costs Rs150 rupees ($0.66) a year, while students enjoy a discount rate of 100 rupees ($0.44), and youngsters flit in and out of the library even during school breaks.

One in 10 members are female - a figure remarkably high for the tribal areas - though once they reach their teenage years and are sequestered in the home male family members collect books on their behalf.

Nevertheless, on their mid-morning break schoolgirls Manahil Jahangir, nine, and Hareem Saeed, five, join the men towering over them as they pore over books.

“My mother’s dream is for me to become a doctor,” Saeed says shyly. “If I study here I can make her dream come true.”
Riaz Haq said…
Bearing gifts: the camels bringing books to Pakistan’s poorest children
The mobile library services are an education lifeline for students in Balochistan, where schools have closed during the pandemic

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2021/apr/26/bearing-gifts-the-camels-bringing-books-to-pakistans-poorest-children


Sharatoon had wanted to continue her studies, but she had to leave school and her beloved books when she got married aged 15.

Now 27, Sharatoon is happy reading again, as every Friday a camel visits her small town, his saddle panniers full of books.

She has four children, the eldest is 11, the youngest 18 months, and she reads to them all, as well as to other children in the town.

Every week, when Roshan the camel comes to her home in Mand, about 12 miles from the border with Iran, in Pakistan’s Balochistan province, Sharatoon exchanges the books she borrowed for new ones.

“When the camel came to our area for the first time, the kids were very happy and excited. Schools have long been closed in our area due to Covid and we do not have any libraries, so this was welcomed by all the kids,” says Sharatoon, who uses only one name.

Balochistan is Pakistan’s most impoverished province, blighted by a separatist insurgency for the past two decades. With a 24% female literacy rate, one of the lowest in the world, compared with a male literacy rate of 56%, it also has the highest percentage of children out of school in the country.


Roshan visits four villages, staying in each at the home of a “mobiliser” such as Sharatoon, where all the district children aged four to 16 can come to read, borrow and exchange books with one another.

“Parents and kids are excited. It is giving hope to many that they can read, and the staff members also work on mobilisation so more outreach can be done,” says Fazul Bashir, a coordinator for the library.

When Covid closed the schools across Balochistan, two women in Mand – Zubaida Jalal, a federal minister in the Pakistan government, and her sister Rahima Jalal, headteacher of a local high school – came up with the idea of a camel.

“Actually, the idea of using camels comes from Mongolia and Ethiopia,” says Rahima. “It suits our desolate, distant and rough terrains. We have received an enormous response that we were not expecting.”

The trial of the camel library has gone well and it is about to begin its next three months of rounds.

Sharatoon says: “Kids are eagerly waiting; they want to read books and keep asking me [about it]. There should be more science-related books so our kids can learn by experimentation.”


The Jalal sisters say there has been a lot of interest in the scheme from other areas, and they have just started a library in the city district of Gwadar, Balochistan, with a camel called Chirag.

Anas Syed Mohammad is a 10-year-old 4th-grade student in the town of Abdul Rahim Bazar, about 30 miles from the city of Gwadar.

Since the camel library started visiting three weeks ago, Mohammad has read a different book each time. “I loved reading Khazane Ki Talaash (In Search of Treasure). I discuss these books with my friends,” he says.

Riaz Haq said…
Bearing gifts: the camels bringing books to Pakistan’s poorest children
The mobile library services are an education lifeline for students in Balochistan, where schools have closed during the pandemic

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2021/apr/26/bearing-gifts-the-camels-bringing-books-to-pakistans-poorest-children


Chirag visits five towns each week accompanied by his handler and Ismail Yaqoob, a volunteer and teacher. One day, when Yaqoob went to work in his school instead of the village, he got a call on his mobile from one of the children.

“He asked me why I had not come along with the camel. They were waiting for books,” says Yaqoob. “Children are so interested in reading and in their studies, but sadly the state does not invest in education.”

Jawad Ali, 10, who has ambitions to be a teacher, has also started borrowing books from the camel library. He says: “I am learning new things from these books and reading stories, understanding photo stories. But I want to read more books. The books are written in my native language – Balochi – but in English and Urdu as well. We want more books – and libraries and schools, too.”

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