The government and local clerics refused to shelter around 500 flood-affected families belonging to the Ahmadiya community in South Punjab’s relief camps. Not only that, the government also did not send relief goods to the flood-hit areas belonging to the Ahmadiya community, The Express Tribune has learnt during a visit to the devastated Punjab districts of Muzaffargarh, Dera Ghazi Khan and Rajanpur.
For its part, the government claims that all relief goods are being distributed among survivors without discrimination. And that all survivors have been sheltered in relief camps without distinction. The flood-devastated families from the Ahmadiya community have strongly criticised the government’s “discriminatory attitude” even at a time when the entire country is reeling from the ravages of the worst flooding in living memory.
Of the 500 Ahmadi families, 350 belong to DG Khan, 60 to Muzaffargarh and 65 to Rajanpur district. According to Ahmadiya community leaders, over 2,500 members of their community have been displaced and are now living with their relatives while some of them have left for Rabwah, the community’s headquarters.
Aziz Ahmad Khan, a local leader of flood victims from the Ahmadiya community in DG Khan, told The Express Tribune that all members of his family have complained of discrimination in DG Khan. He said 200 families from Basti Rindan and Basti Sohrani, 60 from Chah Ismaeel Wala, three from Rakh Mor Jangi, 18 from Ghazi Ghat and 12 from Jhakar Imam Shah of Ahmadpur. Khan alleged that 200 families, who have been displaced from Basti Rindan and Basti Sohrani by flooding, took shelter in a state-run school at Jhok Utra but within days the local administration forced them to leave the school. He said the local administration later told them that people from the surrounding areas did not want the Ahmadis in the relief camp. And that the administration could not allow them to stay at the camp as it could create a law and order situation.
“So we left our cattle and other belongings in the area and took refuge in the homes of our community members on higher grounds,” he said, adding that some of them even migrated to Chanabnagar.
Muhammad Iqbal Sohrani, a member of the Ahmadiya community told The Express Tribune that around 40 Ahmadi families who took shelter in a state-run school at Jhakar Imam Shah near Sumandri, some 40 kilometres from DG Khan, have not received any relief either from philanthropists or from the government. He alleged that relief packages were being distributed through local lawmakers who have been told by the district administration that the Ahmadis are not eligible for any support.
Saleem Chandia, another Ahmadiya community member, said that he along with 40 other community members rented a house but after two days their landlord was forced by local clerics to evict them. Chandia said they were offered help by their own community members after wandering for several days in search of shelter.
Mansoor Ahmad, a resident of Muzaffargarh, told The Express Tribune that over 800 members of the Ahmadiya community were displaced from Bait Nasirabad, Masroornagar, Hussainwala and Shahjamal. At least 100 members of the community, from Hussainwala and Masroorabad, were trapped at Shahjamal. He claimed that they had asked the district police officer (DPO) and the district coordination officer (DCO) to provide them a boat or to rescue the trapped people but they did not take notice.
Ahmad claimed that the trapped Ahmadis were rescued by their fellows on a broken boat. He said local clerics have issued an edict that the Ahmadis should not be provided help.
Naseem Ahmad, from Rajanpur, told The Express Tribune that their 500 community members from the areas of Basti Lashari, Basti Allahdad Dareeshak and from Basti Azizabad were displaced. Their houses were washed away and the government and local clerics ignored them. He said that they were not allowed to stay in state-run schools or in camps, therefore the majority of them were living on the rooftops of their inundated houses.
“The Ahmadiya community itself rescued trapped people and delivered relief to them,” community spokesperson Saleem-ul-Din told The Express Tribune by phone.
He said that the community did not want any relief package from the government for its members. However, the government should protect the property and livestock of the Ahmadis.
Hassan Iqbal, Commissioner DG Khan, told The Express Tribune that he would check the situation. He asked the Ahmadis to directly approach him if they face discrimination anywhere in the district. However, DCO Muzaffargarh Farasat Iqbal said that the Ahmadis have not contacted him.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 18th, 2010.