Umerkot – A Failed Nation?

May 15, 2006

Giving understanding to the people and the leaders is a main task for the development programs here

Giving understanding to the people and the leaders is a main task for the development programs here

Sami Samaj Sujag Sangat is a small NGO in Umerkot dealing with the welfare of the people in the rural areas of Umerkot, bordering with the vast Tharpakar connecting this interior Sindh with Rajasthan and Gujarat in India side. This part of Pakistan had quite a substantial amount of Hindu people, and especially in deep desert, the rural villagers were mostly Hindus from the lowest caste. Umerkot itself had a glorious history as the birthplace of a Mughal king, Akbar. The town had a very ancient fort, but not much was left from the ruins.

Parkash, a friend of mine, was working in this NGO with a teamwork which consist of people from the two religions: Muslims and Hindus. They work together without any problem. Religions had never been problem here, as people from both religions respect each other and live harmoniously. Beef was even not served in restaurants here, as about half of the population were Hindus and the Muslims respected their diet choice. Neither pork (as everywhere in Pakistan).

The NGO was planning to held a health session to give briefing for rural mothers to take care about their health and their baby health. Yesterday was Women’s Day, and it was a momentum for the organization to collect the women from the villages around Samaro and the people from the NGO would deliver speech of health instruction. We departed early in the morning from Umerkot. There were Parkash with another female collegue from his office, and another woman from Rural Woman Development Organization (RWDO) office in Kunri. The journey to Samaro was long, and we were even more deserted to see the deserted hall in Samaro. Parkash had met the Thanka Nazim (the leader of the sub-district) but the public relations of this big man said that they never received any acknowledgement from the NGO about the activities, so they failed to inform the local people.

The PR of the Nazim said that it was the responsibility of the NGO to organize everything, as he just didnt want to be involved in any responsibility of any activities, including to make welfare of the people in the area. He took a rubbish example of Gandhi who successfully brought the independence by struggling alone. Parkash were very annoyed. It was the first time for me to see him speaking in such firing emotion, with complete body language to support his firing speech, just to make the bossy look of the PR of the Nazim (he was not the Nazim himself) realized what was and what was not his responsibility. He delivered a complete ‘health session’ of almost an hour to this government officer, unfortunately in Sindhi language so I couldnt catch exactly, but roughly about the importance of health education to the rural women. It was astonishing for me that such a government officer with such a rank needed to be taught by an NGO worker about such basic knowledge. And it was not easy. The officer kept giving comment which brought more fire on Parkash.

A previous discussion with a son of the executive manager of the NGO brought me to think that even a little boy of this small little sleepy town in interior area already realized what made their country so backward. He accused that the government of Pakistan didnt care so much about the people, instead put 80% of the national budget merely on defense and only 20% other goes to the people welfare. The young boy of 15, already spoke so bravely about the stupification made by the government, also about distorted history. He mentioned Zia ul Haq, Ayub Khan, and Yahya Khan were among the most responsible to bring Pakistan backward, and he was supporter of ZA Bhutto and Musharraf to bring Pakistan to the right direction. I asked him about the policies of Zia which he claimed to bring the backwardness. He said that Zia made too many amendments to the constitution.
“Is that wrong? The people changed, the world changed, amendments sometimes is unavoidable,” I argued.
But Zia was indeed the man who brought strict Islam rules to Pakistan politics, to get support from Mullahs. And even his history teacher told the students that what is told in history book, that Zia was hero to bring freedom to Pakistan, was merely lies. I compared the situation with the history teaching under Suharto in Indonesia.

The politization of religion is very rampant in Pakistan, since the founding of a country based on religion, he said. The recent news that mullahs from Jamaat-e-Islami urged the government to stop relation with Germany, following a death of a Pakistani student, a lover of the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him), in a German jail. Strikes by the name of religions-cum-political parties were also common in big cities like Karachi, bringing drawback in economics. The recent one was last Friday.

There was a report recently about the world’s most failed nations which put Zimbabwe among the top 5, Pakistan in top 10, and Indonesia in 32. Yesterday I found a reader’s letter saying that he failed to understand why Pakistan, such a strong country with good international diplomatic power, didnt try to put the authors to book. He showed that the position was not proper for Pakistan, as the country had so much strong points like the world champion of cricket and bridge (Indonesia, another failed nation, was a world champion of badminton), Karachi had 25 business education institutions, Pakistan is one of the world’s atom powers, and Pakistan spent so much money for the charity needs, the second in the world after the US, as he claimed.

Index of failed states. (top 60 countries)

1. Sudan 2. Democratic Republic of Congo 3. Ivory Coast 4. Iraq 5. Zimbabwe 6. Chad 6. (Tie) Somalia 8. Haiti 9. Pakistan 10. Afghanistan 11. Guinea 11. (Tie) Liberia 13. Central African Republic 14. North Korea 15. Burundi 16. Yemen 16. (Tie) Sierra Leone 18. Myanmar 19. Bangladesh 20. Nepal 21. Uganda 22. Nigeria 22. (Tie) Uzbekistan 24. Rwanda 25. Sri Lanka 26. Ethiopia 27. Colombia 28. Kyrgyzstan 29. Malawi 30. Burkina Faso 31. Egypt 32. Indonesia 33. Syria 33. (Tie) Kenya 35. Bosnia-Herzegovina 36. Cameroon 37. Angola 37. Togo 39. Bhutan 39. Laos 41. Mauritania 42. Tajikistan 43. Russia 44. Niger 45. Turkmenistan 46. Guinea-Bissau 47. Cambodia 47. (Tie) Dominican Republic 49. Papua New Guinea 50. Belarus 41. Guatemala 52. Equatorial Guinea 52. (Tie) Iran 54. Eritrea 55. Serbia-Montenegro 56. Bolivia 57. China 57. (Tie) Moldova 59. Nicaragua 60. Georgia

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