After enduring more than a week of severe physical pain, Abdul Razaque Ansari finally succumbed to his wounds at Burns Centre of Civil hospital late on Monday evening.
A Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) jiyala, former vice president for Badin city, he set himself on fire on International Labour Day for not getting his already meager salary of Rs5,000 for a few months.
Ansari used to work in Mirza Sugar Mills in Badin. A little while after the prime minister announced to increase minimum wages to Rs8,000, Ansari burnt himself just outside the Badin press club. This was the second time he attempted self immolation.
He had set himself on fire before as well in 2011 after PPP’s president for Badin taluka, Dr Aziz Memon, did not give him a suction pump to drain water from his home which was flooded, according to an uncle, Soomar Ansari.
Ansari was the only bread-winner of his family. He leaves behind five daughters and a seven-month-old son. Two of his daughters can’t hear or speak and his parents are cardiac patients. “One of his younger brothers got operated for a stomach illness and youngest one is just 12 years old,” said Soomar.
Ansari had not been paid for the last four months. “He went to Dr Memon again for a job in the education department. He was very disappointed by his behavior and gathered around 50 people for a protest before attempting self-immolation. After he addressed the people he set himself on fire. “He also wanted to set his daughters, Irum, Neelam and Mehak ablaze,” said Soomar.
Razaque was taken to Badin’s civil hospital and the doctors referred him to Hyderabad. He stayed in Hyderabad’s burns ward for five days before being moved to Karachi on May 6. He was in critical condition.
Soomar said that Ansari had devoted his whole life to the PPP. “Not a single party leader came to visit him or did anything for his treatment.” He said that they were told that National Assembly Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza had announced that he will be given a job and all his treatment expenses will be taken care of. “But nothing was done when he was crying in the burns ward.”
On Monday, the whole city shut down to mourn Ansari’s death. The next day a protest was also organised at DC Chowk where his funeral prayers were also held. Hundreds of people participated in the funeral and chanted slogans against the PPP leadership.
“We’ll register an FIR against Dr Aziz Memon after 10 days if concrete steps are not taken against him,” Soomar said.
In an interview Ansari had given to a Sindhi news channel, KTN, he had said that his daughters were not going to schools because of poverty. “I was the PPP’s city vice president but my own government ignored me,” he had said. “What has happened to the PPP leadership?”
However a social worker, Ameer Bux, said that it was the responsibility of everyone present at the moment, including journalists, social workers and the police, to try and stop him and not just the PPP. “They could have stopped him,” he said. “But all of them only watched and let him burn.”
During the Sindh Assembly session on Tuesday, fateha was offered for the departed soul of Ansari. Meanwhile, PPP MPAs Dr Sikandar Mandhro and Ghulam Qadir Chandio demanded financial help from the government for the family of the “Jiyalo” of PPP, who committed self-immolation because of poverty. Despite repeated pleas by the members, no government minister assured help to the victim’s family.
Dr Aziz Memon did not respond when The Express Tribune tried to contact him.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 9th, 2012.
Correction: An earlier version of the article was running some grammatical inaccuracies. The errors have been rectified.