into prostitution... for the sake of her family
memory of Ghulam Rabbani Agro
A temporary settlement situated opposite the Silver Jubilee gate of the University of Karachi a couple of years ago was inhabited by migrant labour from Sindh and Punjab. Most of these families belonged to low-caste groups, and had fled their ancestral homes either in search of viable vocations or to simply escape the local money lender of their respective areas. While men denied any societal "wrong doings," women confided that prostitution was rife in the settlement, and that girls were hired as commercial sex workers by "influential Sahebs."
The stories of these women are perhaps obscured by tales of increasing, or decreasing, GDPs, GNPs and the like. The problem with lumping societal indicators in terms of figures is that not only do those in the lower rung of society get absorbed in mathematical averages, individual narratives also get concealed from the overall picture.
In our mega-city of Karachi, hundreds, perhaps thousands live without any form of social protection. While market structures in the city encourage the proliferation of corporate entities, those without the education - or access to opportunities for social mobility - continue to be employed in professions considered lowly or have associated taboos in society.
Women in Karachi, in particular, and in Sindh, as a whole, do not seem to be receiving the benefits of either developmental schemes or schemes for social protection. Schemes such as the Benazir Bhutto Income Support Programme, while noble in their outlook, have not only been made as cash cows of sorts by officials concerned, the total amount being offered to women in these programmes is also inadequate. Moreover, one is forced to wonder if these schemes will be sustainable, and whether they will continue if the Pakistan People's Party does not figure in the next provincial regime.
Similar to intra-country women's trafficking, child trafficking also goes unchecked, and is often patronised by those with access to the corridors of power.
On Women's Day, it is perhaps more pertinent to examine why more and more women are being forced into the commercial sex workers industry, rather than mere lip service about how women are being empowered. Women don't need the alms, so to speak, they need to know how to create and sustain a living for themselves. Unfortunately, the supreme patriarch, the State, has served only to reinforce patriarchy and to maintain its control over women's sexuality.
By Urooj Zia
Sixteen-year-old JB had been recovered around two years ago after a car accident. She had been kidnapped from Thatta, and brought to Karachi; en route, she was raped by her kidnappers, who allegedly had the backing of influential people back in JB's home district. The search for JB's family had brought to light an extremely organised prostitution ring in Makli, Thatta, which was allegedly run under the patronage of a political leader of the area.
The girl had been travelling with the three kidnappers, when their car had crashed into a parked vehicle in Karachi. After the car crash, the men and JB were all detained at a police station. JB was later rescued from the police station, her medico-legal examination was conducted and she was kept at a shelter home for women. She had said that she was from Ramzan Goth in Chilya Band, Thatta, and wanted to see her husband and son.
JB and her husband, Perwaiz, live with her parents. Her in-laws live in Thatta city. When Kolachi had contacted JB's family, they were not aware of the fact that JB was missing -- they said that they were used to her not being home for four to five days in a row, three to four times a month. "She allegedly goes to her in-laws in Thatta," her parents said. "Her husband does not stop her -- his wife should not be travelling alone. When we ask him to stop her, he fights with us, and tells us to mind our own business. What happens in his house is his business, he says."
Perwaiz works at hotels, JB had said. The reality, however, was that Perwaiz did not work at all. He initially claimed to not know where his wife was; "and I don't care," he said. "She doesn't look after our son, or the house, and does what she pleases. She does not listen to me. She says she's going to visit my mother and leaves. She returns when she wants to. I never go with her, because I am not on talking terms with my parents."
JB's mother, on the other hand, said that Perwaiz's mother, Vallai, had come to their house and taken JB with her. She also said that she had spoken to JB's brother-in-law after the girl had left, and he had assured her that the girl was fine and was with Villai.
JB's husband, her mother, and a village elder were then taken to the girl's in-laws' house. Villai was not at home at the time, and her husband, Hussain, said that she had gone to Makli "on business." He later changed his statement, and said, "She has gone to visit my daughter, who lives in Makli." Perwaiz, however, has no sisters; just four brothers. Also, Villai's mother was at home. She said that JB visits them often. Most of the time Perwaiz accompanies her. They stay overnight and then leave for Makli with Villai.
In the meantime, Perwaiz had told Kolachi that he knew about the place that Hussain was talking about. Once at the house, Perwaiz asked us not to go in, and that he'll call his mother out himself. "This is the house of my sister's in-laws. They're Pallaris, a different tribe; and they'll wonder why people want to ask my mother questions," he said.
A man stood guard outside the house. Villai came out, and after hearing what the commotion was about, disappeared back inside. The house was full of women, each claiming to be the other's sister, mother, sister-in-law, and so on. Villai said that this was her son's house, and she had come to visit her daughter-in-law. The head matron of the house was covered in gold jewellery, and the other women were also dressed differently from how women in the area generally dress. Meanwhile, a small argument broke out between Villai and JB's mother. "Why on earth did you bring them here," Villai asked JB's mother, pointing at the people who had come to look for JB's family. "They wanted to know where JB was and how long she has been missing. I told them she was with you," JB's mother replied in her native Sindhi. She cannot speak Urdu; Villai and the women in the house, however, spoke and understood Urdu, something not very common for women in the area.
Villai was then brought back to her house. JB's father was also found on the way. The council at the house in Thatta therefore comprised of JB's parents, in-laws and her husband. A small "war" erupted within the group, and allegations were bandied back and forth. Villai claimed that JB never came to their house, while Villai's mother said that JB had come to the house with Villai on the morning of the day she was recovered in Karachi.
JB had apparently disappeared once before too, and had been "found" in the house of a local political leader. As to how she got there from all the way in Chilya Band, no one claimed to know.
"They run a brothel. They're chaklai (pimps)," JB's father alleged, pointing at his daughter's in-laws. Villai is JB's father's stepsister. When asked why he let Perwaiz live in his house along with his daughter if he were a pimp, JB's father merely hung his head and mumbled that he was afraid of his son-in-law and his "connections."
Incidentally, JB has another son, younger than the one Perwaiz was holding. Perwaiz said that he had given the child up for adoption to someone called Pallari, because JB did not take care of the child, and he would have died. "Also, Pallari did not have any children, and we gave the child away in the name of God," he claimed. It was later revealed that Perwaiz had lost the other child while gambling.
During the entire episode, JB's father-in-law, Hussain, sat on a charpoy with his back to everyone, absolutely disinterested. While the house-with-many-women showed some level of affluence, Hussain's house screamed of abject poverty.
Away in a corner, one of the members of JB's family, requesting anonymity, said that the girl had informed her family about the entire prostitution issue. "She had said that her mother-in-law is part of a prostitution ring, and that Perwaiz forces her (JB) into it, too," the family member said. "We told her to leave her husband, but she wouldn't do that. She said she would have no options in life if she got a divorce."
Perwaiz agreed when he was asked if he would like to come to Karachi and visit his wife. He was subsequently brought to Karachi the same evening, and he met JB at the shelter home. There seemed to be no animosity between the couple, and after a while JB, said that she wanted to go back home with her husband. She was discharged from the shelter home, and the family left for Thatta. They called and confirmed that they had reached home safely.
When contacted recently, it was found that Perwaiz is still unemployed; JB still works as a commercial sex worker, and is routinely kidnapped and abused. JB's story, however, is not unique. The shortage of water and employment opportunities in the southern districts of Thatta and Badin has forced many families to turn to prostitution. JB's in-laws, therefore, are just one among many who are following the same trade, and are exploited in a similar manner.
Seven-year-old, rosy-cheeked Qudratullah, whose name literally translates to "God's miracle," is a beautiful child who works at one of the bigger Dhaabas on the Superhighway, a couple of kilometres out of Karachi. He carries tea and food out to customers who either sit in their vehicles or at one of the plastic tables and chairs set up right outside the Dhaaba. Qudratullah is also a commercial sex worker.
At first glance, he seems like any other child from a poor background, forced to earn a living to supplement his family's income, while he jumps from customer to customer, making small talk, with the natural curiosity of a seven-year-old let loose upon the world at large. Behind his banter, however, is a more sinister training, which enables him to pick the right "customers," and proposition his services -- with a combination of expertly-worded phrases, coupled with body language -- in a way that cannot possibly get him in trouble if the customer balks in horror, instead of reaching for his wallet.
For one, Qudratullah's trainers make sure that he propositions only all-male groups -- while he flits gaily around families, or mixed groups of men and women, he lingers only around groups which comprise entirely of men. He then moves in for the kill: his conversations begin innocently enough, with the basic story of his life, and end with a proposition. He left his village near Quetta a month ago, after his maternal aunt's husband told his father that he could find work for the child in Karachi. Although reluctant at first, Qudratullah's father allowed him to go with his uncle, knowing full well what he was getting the child into.
Qudratullah doesn't get paid directly for his services. His "uncle" sends a lumpsum amount to his father at regular intervals -- or so Qudratullah hopes. "I'm not really sure," he said with a frown. "My uncle said that he'll give the money to my father, because I'm young, you see, and may lose or waste it."
This narrative, however, it is neither new nor, barring some particulars, entirely unique. Qudratullah is just one of approximately ___ children who are trafficked every year, and end up either as domestic servants with no legal rights or recourse, or worse, as commercial sex workers. Qudratullah, however, is luckier -- if that word can be used in this context -- than most other children in his position. He still has a family which to go back to. Most children who are trafficked are sold off by their parents, and with no one to fall back upon, end up trapped in the lives that their buyers choose for them.
"There are no laws to govern intra-country child-trafficking," Initiators Human Development Foundation President (and Movement for Child Protection and Welfare convener) Rana Asif told Kolachi. "Most of the children who are trafficked come from Southern Punjab -- areas such as Khanpur, Alipur, Muzaffargarh, Rahim Yar Khan, Sadiqabad and Bahawalpur. These children are brought to Karachi and either kept here or sent off to the Gulf countries."
Many of these children are runaways; they are trapped and then picked up from specific points in the city, which are known to traffickers. "Video game shops are used for this purpose. In Saddar, for instance, two shops, known as 'Chaha Ka video game' and 'Farhan Ka video game' are pickup points for trafficked children," Asif said. "They are also trafficked via the Railways; unfortunately, the Pakistan Railways has no means of knowing if a passenger is actually related to a child he or she is travelling with. After being picked up in Karachi, the children are given cell phones, and then sent off to business points, where they are used as commercial sex workers, beggars, or bonded labourers."
Their handlers get a minimum advance of Rs10,000, after which the child "belongs" to the buyer for anywhere between three to six months. Often, a child's close relative is involved in the trade, as in the case of Qudratullah, making it more difficult to track abuse. "It would be safe to say that around 20 per cent of these children are trafficked by their own relatives," Asif said.
Trafficked children are also used as "keeps" and abused sexually by influential landlords, jail inmates, and truck drivers, he said, adding that clients include Sardars from Balochistan, and as far away as Qandahar in Afghanistan, and even Iran.
Meanwhile, there is no legislation to protect children; even the Child Protection Bill has been delayed for the past six years. "Even the existing laws, such as the Bonded Labour Abolition Act of 1992, are confusing, and hard to implement in case of children," Asif said.
In 2004, the Punjab government implemented the Destitute and Neglected Children Act; the other three provinces, however, did not follow suit. Such is the apathy of the authorities concerned, that there is no portfolio for child rights in the Sindh government, Rana Asif maintained.
"War victims are especially at risk, as are children from areas affected by major natural disasters. There is no pictorial identification data for children below the age of 18," Asif said. "All we have are birth certificates and B-forms, neither of which are pictorial records. Children are often drugged, using heavy sedatives such as Xanax and Valium-V, before being trafficked or abused. In the absence of laws, they have nowhere to turn to for help."
"There are around 107 police stations in Karachi; approximately 900 FIRs regarding missing children are filed annually. The follow-up and recovery, however, is negligible, and the conviction rate is even lower," Asif said. "The child custody and adoption laws of Pakistan need to be reviewed if the children of the country are to be protected."
-- Urooj Zia
Water-logging, salinity threaten to destroy chief minister's home district
By Mahadev Kirshan
The northern or upper districts of Sindh, including Ghotki, Kahirpur, Larkana, Jacobabad and Shikarpur were once hubs of agricultural products and cash crops, such as cotton, rice and fruits. The date palm of district Khairpur, the rice production of Larkana, Jacobabad and Shikarpur, and the cotton production of district Ghotki, once contributed a major portion of national agriculture production. For the past few decades, however, the reducing water flows in the Indus River, and the increasing prices of agriculture input, such as seed, fertilizers and fuel, have badly affected these agriculture-rich districts of Sindh.
Beside water scarcity for irrigation, water-logging and salinity have emerged as ìtwin menacesî in these districts, and have damaged millions of hectares of farmland in the past few decades. Incidentally, Khairpur Mirs, the home district of Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah, is the worst-affected of the lot.
This former princely state of the Talpur Mirs (the Ameers of the state) is now a picture of massive destruction, wrought by water-logging and salinity.
Khairpur Mirs was once peaceful with vast, scattered farmlands. The rich agricultural land and weather pattern made bananas and date palms grow in the same field. Quality date palms from this district are still exported to major markets such as Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, India, Denmark, Nepal, Germany, South Africa, US, Australia and Canada. Official data reveals that Khairpur Mirs exported dates worth US$38.8 million in 2008. In recent years, however, salinity has started flooding these vast scattered date-palm orchards.
The local residents fear that if the situation continues, the date-palm orchards will be completely destroyed. The ratio of salinity flooding to soil surface doubles in the winter.
Water-logging and salinity, however, is not a new phenomenon in Pakistan. It began in the British era, after the then government constructed controlled irrigation systems in the Indus plain, and the groundwater table started to rise steadily.
In the 1950s, when water-logging and salinity were reported for the first time in some districts of Punjab, the government took serious notice. In the early 1960s, the Salinity Control and Reclamation Project (SCARP) was initiated under WAPDA with the help of the World Bank. Under the SCARP project, the federal government started installing SCARP public tubewell services in different districts of Sindh and Punjab to suction salinity and drain out saline water from these tubewells. Surface drain disposal systems and outfall drains were introduced.
With the passage of time, however, the governmentís lack of interest and bureaucratic corruption has proved that these tubewells and surface drain disposal systems as a failed project. The evacuation of these surface drains was not continued for decades; thus, heavy weed infestation has completely choked these outfall drains, especially in district Khairpur Mirs. Instead of draining out salinity, these choked drains have started flooding lush green agricultural fields and vast date-palm orchards.
Besides choked drains, the tubewells have also become ineffective and individuals have assumed ownership of some of these tubewells. They, however, were unable to keep them functional. Eventually, a majority of SCARP public tubewell services went out of order, and at many places, water suction pumps were stolen.
With the passage of time, the salinity did not remain limited to farmlands, and started pouring into villages. According to local residents, tens of hundreds small villages in district Khairpur Mirs have become stranded underneath saline water, but the government has taken no notice whatsoever.
Tens of thousands residents of these salinity-hit villages have migrated to safer places, while the twin menaces -- water-logging and salinity -- have left them with no other option.
Over the past few years, residents of the salinity-hit villages began protesting over the worsening situation; after these protests, SCARP authorities sometimes sent evacuators, but this was rare.
In the summer, the ratio of salinity reduces, but the saline water, after drying up from the land, leaves behind large deposits of salt and minerals on the soil surface. This does not allow crops to grow on these lands.
The increasing water-logging and salinity in the district has thus not only affected date-palm orchards and villages, but underground water sources, such as hand pumps and wells, that were supposed to be sources of drinking water for human consumption, have also become polluted with saline water.
The residents of Khairpur Mirs now demand that the government take notice of this worsening situation and restore the SCARP public tubewell services. They demand immediate relief and the evacuation of surface drain disposal systems.
– The writer is a social activist based in Karachi.
By Momin Bullo
Ghulam Rabbani Agro can rightly be ranked among those pioneers of post-Pakistan Sindhi literature, who bravely shouldered the responsibility of resuscitating Sindhi literature in the wake of the mass emigration of the Sindhi Hindu intelligentsia.
Like Albert Camus, Agro began his literary carrier as an accidental writer in the mid-1950s by participating in a story-writing contest. He was declared one of the best short story writers by the late Pir Hisamuddin Rashdi, Begum Zeenat Channa and Usman Ali Ansari, all scholars who were judges of the literary contest. This proved to in his first and finest literary creation and it launched a fearless writer.
Agroís pro-peasantry style of short-story-writing became popular and during a brief span of time he emerged as a famous writer equipped with progressive ideals. His style of writing was in relation to his rural background. He was born on November 5, 1933, in the fief of the Jatois of Moro, in village Mohabat Dero Jatoi, district Noshehro Feroz. His primary to secondary education centered in his village and at a Madressah in Noshehro Feroze.
His remarkable writing attracted many readers and critics. Probably because of his growing popularity, Maulana Abdul Wahid Sindhi, then-editor of the monthly Nain Zindgi, offered him the job of assistant editor. He was still in Nain Zindagi, when he was invited by Mohammad Ibrahim Joyo, the then-secretary of the Sindhi Adbi Board (SAB), to join him as the SAB assistant secretary in 1957. Agro immediately accepted the offer.
SAB was founded in 1951 through the efforts of G.M Syed with the sole aim of promoting Sindhi literature. In its initial stages, the board used to be run by G.M Syed, Miran Mohammad Shah, Ali Mohammad Rashdi, Agha Badarddin and several others. All were equally prominent literary figures as well as politicians.
Following the imposition of Ayub Khan's Martial Law and the enforcement of One Unit, the ruling Junta minimised the involvement of writers-cum-politicians and imposed an embargo on the SAB to prevent it from publishing radical literature.
In those days, the smuggling of literature from one country to another was common. Agro's short story "Buray Hin Bhambhore Main" which had been published in the quarterly, Mehran, was reproduced in English in the Hindustan Times by Hashoo Kewal Ramani. "One fine morning I come to my office and sorted out the mail received from various embassies of the world, which included Japan, China, Vietnam etc. I picked up a packet of a paper in a language which I couldnít understand. I threw it away, and a small piece of paper fell on the floor. I picked up the piece of paper written in English which contained the contents of the stories included in that Chinese language paper. The paper was named 'The World Literature' and I read the list of stories and their writers, which included Chekov, Dostovesky and many other renowned names of the west. To my utter surprise, I found my name, Ghulam Rabbani Agro from Pakistan, at the end of the list. My story had been lifted from the Hindustan Times under the title of 'The Deluge'," Agro once told me.
The imposition of Ayub Khan's Martial Law triggered a theoretical battle among the writers of Sindh and they were divided in two camps -- the rightists and the leftists. Agro sided with the leftists and was subsequently attacked by the rightists. They created many difficulties for writers of progressive thought as well as institutions such as the the Sindhi Adbi Board. During the agitation against the One Unit and Ayub Khanís authoritarian rule, progressive Sindhi writers and politicians launched a movement. Agro, who was then secretary of the SAB, also joined the team, risking his government job. "Our silent literary movement was later converted into a violent student politics and on March 4, 1967, an agitating group of students from the Jamshoro Campus, was attacked near Phuleli Canal by the law enforcement agencies. This resulted in injuries to a large number of students," Agro told me.
By the mid-1970s, when the late Shaikh Ayaz came to Sindh University as the vice-chancellor, he brought together a team of learned writers and intellectuals and recruited them to various posts. Agro was among those lucky writers. Shaikh Ayaz took the responsibility of taming the agitating students of the University.
Agro could rightly be called as a witness to the all ugly trends taking root in Sindh in higher seats of learning at Jamshoro. An attempt to set ablaze the Institute of Sindhology Department by an ethnic group and many other incidents of intrigue, from the 1950s onwards were well-preserved in his memory box. "By the mid-70s, when we took over the University, the students' hostel area was considered a prohibited area for the administration. I broke that barrier and spoke to the students. I advised them to clean the walls of anti-Ayaz graffiti. They listened to me patiently and obliged me and offered me a cup of tea," he once said.
Although Shaikh Ayaz succeeded in taming the students, he couldn't calm the agitating faculty members of the university. So he went directly to 70-Clifton and complained to Z.A Bhutto. The very next day, the dismissal order of seven senior academics of the University landed on the campus, terrifying everyone. The teachers concerned were asked to leave the campus within 24 hours. While all the dismissed teachers were reinstated within a shot span of time, they were posted under various capacities in different departments till 1979, when the late Ayaz concluded his tenure and left the campus. After completing his tenure of pro-vice-chancellorship, Agro again returned to SAB as a secretary.
In 1982, a seminar on Sindhi short-story writing was jointly organised by SAB and the Institute of Sindhology (then headed by Mehtab Akber Rashidi). The then-federal education minister, Dr Mohammad Afzal Khan, was the chief guest. On that occasion Dr Afzal asked Mehtab Akber Rashidi to nominate a person from Sindh to be appointed as the Director Administration and Finances in Pakistanís Academy of Letters. Mehtab Akber Rashidi suggested Agroís name to the minister, and by May 1984, he took over the new assignment in Islamabad. Until 1993, Agro worked as director (admin), director general and the chairman of the Pakistan Academy of Letters (PAL).
Soon after his retirement in 1993, he was picked up as a member of the Federal Public Service Commission and served there for three years. During this tenure, Agro came across a number of candidates and tested their worth. Agro admited that during the course of interview tests for CSS and other recruitments, he, along with the other members of the commission, were approached for favours by the candidates and their influential parents. "A governor of a province approached me through one of his officers and asked me to help his ADC get inducted in the civil service. I spoke to my chairman (Justice Zafar Mirza) and informed him about the matter. He told me that I need not to worry. Just a few days later the same governor contacted the chairman, who plainly declined to hear him and said that we are here to do justice with all," Agro said. He worked as a team member of Justice Mirza, who was chosen as the FPSC chairman in 1993, soon after Benazir Bhutto returned to power for the second time. Justice Mirza, father of Sindh Home Minister Dr Zulfiqar Mirza, is known for his upright conduct and his just principles. He reportedly even clashed with the prime minister during his stint but did not succumb to pressure.
As a prominent literary figure and seasoned bureaucrat, Agro had extensive experience of organising and attending conferences of national and international importance. He was conferred the Tamgha-e-Imtiaz (literary award) by the President of Pakistan in recognition of his long standing services in the field of literature. Besides this, he was awarded the Naushahro Feroze Madaressah Centenary Celebration Award by President Farooq Ahmed Khan Leghari in 1995.
Ghualm Rabbani Agro died of a massive heart attack on January 18, 2010, at his residence in Hyderabad; and was laid to rest in his ancestral graveyard at Mohabat Dero Jatoi, Naushahro Feroze.
– The writer is basedin Hyderabad and can be reached at [email protected]
A month-and-a-half ago, 15-year-old Daya, daughter of Khaku, a member of the Meghwar Dalit community, was abducted at night from her village, Aaklee, while her family was asleep. Soon after, she was forcefully converted to Islam at a Madressah in Samaro. Since then, the Meghwar community of Aaklee lives in fear. They have been threatened by the abductors, who were identified as Mumtaz and his father Talib from the Hingorja community , who said that they would kidnap other girls from the community too, if the Meghwars did not remain silent.
On March 1, while other Hindu communities celebrated Holi, this oppressed, low-caste community from Aaklee left their village forever due to insecurity and for the protection of other young girls in the village. Sixty-five families shifted to Mithi, and settled in an open field near the bypass, two kilometres away from the main town. Some of their relatives, who live in Mithi, have been providing them with support in the form of tents to shelter the women and children. Government functionaries, however, have not bothered to get in touch with them.
The affectees are voters of Faqir Sher Mohd Bilalani, so they complained of this incident to him. Bilalani had assured them that the abducted girl will be recovered; nothing of the sort has happened yet, instead, Meghwars continued to received more threats from the Hingorja community -- so much so that 65 families (400 people) have to leave their ancestral home.
The Meghwars could not even lodge an FIR against the Hingorjas due to fear. They had initially thought that the matter will be resolved through traditional means, as Bilalani had assured them.
"The Hingorjas are powerful people. They converted Daya to Islam against her will," the girl's parents, Ratna and Khaku, maintain.
"No one can imagine how difficult it is to leave one's native village; but today we have decided that we can never go back to Aaklee," 70-year-old Mehendaro Meghwar said.
They are also worried about the education of their children, because the exams were scheduled for March. The community has demanded land and relief packages from the government, in order to be able to begin life anew near Mithi.
I think that the government should immediately investigate this case and punish the actual culprits. The government should also address the needs of the community, and take appropriate action for their rehabilitation. Moreover, keeping in view the increasing violence against religious minorities, especially those from the scheduled castes, the Government of Pakistan should announce a constitutional package, inlcuding provisions for necessary protection, and a set of affirmative actions for their rights.
– Pirbhu Satyani, Hyderabad.
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