Lahore, September 23: A team of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) that visited the flood-hit areas of Multan and Muzaffargarh districts has noted gaps in provision of relief and registration of the affected families for financial assistance.
HRCP Council member Ms. Hina Jilani led the team that visited the flood-affected areas. In many areas, the team found agriculture land still submerged under several feet of floodwater and the affected population living in tents on higher ground, mainly on roads and embankments.
The affected people said that their main problems included the destruction of their houses and means of livelihoods, including cattle and crops. Many had to sell the cattle that had survived the flood at throw-away prices because fodder was either not available or was very expensive. Now they found it hard to start over again as they had no money to buy livestock. They worried about the coming sowing season as the fields need to be cleared and levelled and they also had no resources for seeds, fertilizer and pesticide. In many areas no official had visited the affected people to provide relief or to gather information about their losses.
The tenants of agriculture land in several areas apprehended that although they were the ones who had suffered losses because of crop destruction, only the owners of the land would get the financial assistance from the government, as the tenancy agreements had been made verbally as per the local custom. In many villages, the affected families had begun repairing and rebuilding their houses on their own, from the material retrieved from the debris. However, many people were unwilling to leave the relief camps because they had no resources to rebuild their homes and did not want to be deprived of whatever little they received in the camps.
HRCP received reports that many affected people in Muzaffargarh had not been issued Watan ATM Card, and had effectively been excluded from official support to rebuild their lives, often because their names were not included in the list of the people who qualified for financial assistance. One family said that the local Patwari (land record officer) had asked for a bribe to include their names in the list of people eligible for compensation. Members of the Muzaffargarh bar association informed the team that the floods caused avoidable destruction in the district mainly because the decision to breach embankments was dictated by local influentials to protect agriculture land in their possession, including occupied state land.
The HRCP team noted that other flood-affected areas of the country might be facing problems similar to those found in Multan and Muzaffargarh and called upon the government to urgently address such problems wherever they are found. HRCP teams have been working in all flood-affected districts of the country to assess specific needs in different areas.
HRCP has been sharing the information with the national and international bodies in order to facilitate an appropriate response to the needs at the local level. The teams have also been monitoring delivery of goods.
Dr Mehdi Hasan