SUKKUR: For Abdul Sattar, his whole world is a 12×8 feet hut in the courtyard of his house. In the Rehmoonwali Mohalla (neighbourhood) in Ghotki, the man with special needs has been kept chained for the past 23 years.
His father Ahmed Shaikh claims Sattar appeared quite “normal” until he turned two, when the family started feeling something was wrong with him. Sattar is the eldest among eight siblings.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Shaikh said Sattar didn’t talk much and used to sit for hours at a stretch. “As he grew older, he used to run out of the house and climbed electric poles or run after vehicles,” he said. “We thought it was better to keep him chained.”
Shaikh said they took him to several doctors, but nothing worked. “As I am poor and also have a big family, it was rather impossible for me to continue his treatment or take him to some hospital in Karachi.”
The sole income source of the family is a donkey cart, which Shaikh drives as a loading vehicle.
“Whatever I earn daily is insufficient for my family,” he said. “We are not able to eat properly, let alone take Sattar for treatment.”
Sattar seemed to be quite friendly and seeing a new face in the house, shook hands with this correspondent at least 20 times.
However, a neighbour, requesting anonymity, told The Express Tribune that for years Sattar has been kept in the room with a donkey and buffalos. “He can eat anything now. The boy even likes eating fodder,” he lamented.
The neighbour said that the family has left the man at the mercy of nature. Sattar likes to smoke too and his father started to give him cigarettes.
In the same neighbourhood, one of Sattar’s cousins, 12-year-old Babra also has special needs, but fares much better than him. She is free to roam about in the area and keeps visiting houses.
Babra’s father Hakim Ali Shaikh told The Express Tribune that his wife died during childbirth when the girl was 18 months old. “Although my mother used to take care of Babra, she gradually suffered,” he said. “I took her to numerous doctors in Ghotki and Sukkur, but the treatment was very expensive for me. I even sold my house, but to no avail.”
Babra has many scars on her face. According to her father, whenever she has a fit, she falls to the ground, injuring herself. He said she had shown some improvement after being treated by a doctor in Sukkur, but now he had no money.
When asked why he did not remarry after his wife’s death, Shaikh said people were not ready to accept his daughter with special needs.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 28th, 2012.