Pakistani Christian slum dwellers live in abject poverty
Residents of slums are without power, clean drinking water and proper houses
By Sheraz Khurram Khan
ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN (ANS) — Pakistani Christian workers living in slums in the Islamabad, the capital city of Pakistan, have appealed to the appropriate authorities to give them ownership rights and have also called for access to clean drinking water, electricity and other basic facilities.
Talking to ANS on May Day, the Christian slum dwellers of the “Shopper Colony” — most of the residents have made shelters by using polythene sheets — complained that the anti-encroachment squad of the Capital Development Authority (CDA) is demolishing their shelters during their visits as they claim that the colony is “set up illegally.”
“The CDA anti-encroachment team takes away our household items making life further difficult for us,” Ejaz Gill, a resident of the colony told ANS.
Only five percent residents of the colony are sanitary workers in the CDA but the rest of colony residents do odd jobs to eke out their income.
Gill, who has been living in the colony, recalled that apart from former Federal Minister Julius Salik, no other minority lawmaker ever visited their colony. Deploring the abject poverty the residents of the colony are living in, he urged the authorities to attend to their long-standing demands.
Like most of Christian residents of the colony, Anwar Masih lives in a shelter made of polythene sheets. He said he cannot take his children to hospital when they fall sick.
“We have no means to provide them with medical treatment,” he said.
The residents of the colony contract diseases as the area is littered with heaps of garbage.
He said they had apprised former Minister of State for minorities’ affairs, Mr. Mushtaq Victor of their problems “but he only fed us on false hopes.” Anwar earns Rs. 8000 ($123.875 USD) per month and has to feed 9 family members. “I cannot send my children to school due to non-availability of resources,” he regretted.
Khalid Ghouri, a resident of 48 quarters, another Christian slum of capital Islamabad, burst into tears as he described how life was treating him.
The residents of the slum are without power, clean drinking water and other basic facilities and the rampant squalor in the slum is affecting the health of the residents. He was critical of former minority parliamentarians, who he said “did nothing” to address problems confronting them.
ANS also talked to the residents of 66 quarters, a Christian slum in capital Islamabad on International Workers Day. It was hard to stand amid stink arising from squalor but the residents of the slum do not have any choice but to go on living there. Half of the slum dwellers have taken shelter in tents while the rest of them live in houses.
Pointing to a nearby dirty water drain, the residents of the slum told ANS that when rain water inundates the drain they are forced to climb on trees along with their children. Without giving us any alternative place the CDA wants us to leave this area, said the residents of the 66 quarters, including Qaisar Gill, Michael Masih, and Javed Masih, told ANS They said they were without electricity and did not have access to clean drinking water.
Adrees Masih, a resident of the area criticized CDA for awarding contracts of recruiting sanitary workers to people, who it (CDA) wants to oblige. He earns Rs. 4500 ($69.6594 USD) per month and hardly makes his both ends meet. He believes that some 1000-15000 more people can get jobs in CDA if the authority stops handing sanitation contracts to other people.
Samuel Masih, another resident of the slum told ANS that they have long been demanding that they be given basic facilities. “All we want from government is electricity, defense from mosquitoes and clean drinking water,” he said.