LARKANA / KARACHI: Holding a bunch of documents in his hands, Sahib Bheel – a scheduled caste Hindu – was running from one office to another requesting people for momentary help for his ailing son admitted in Larkana’s Institute of Child Health.
Since he received no response from government authorities concerned, he contemplated an extreme step. Together with his family he first staged a sit-in in front of the hospital and then attempted to set himself on fire.
“Officer of Zakat funds refused to give us a single penny saying the funds are only for Muslims. No one is willing to help me. I cannot see my child dying on the bed, so I want to kill myself,” he shouted.
Not only Bheel, but thousands of others belonging to minority communities deserve government help, but are neglected as there is no provision of monetary help for indigent non-Muslims in Sindh’s government hospitals.
“Karachi hospitals might have alternative of Zakat for non-Muslims, but we don’t have such a facility here,” Chandka Hospital Larkana’s Medical Superintendent Dr Javeed Shaikh told The Express Tribune.
“In every government hospital there is a health welfare committee, which recommends only the cases of Muslims from the Zakat fund,” he said, adding that non-Muslims can avail the monetary facility from Pakistan Baitul Mal, a federal government-run institution which takes a lot of time.
“There is no instant relief for minorities, but sometimes we accommodate them by sparing some money from the Zakat fund,” he added.
According to official record, Rs5 million were allocated for Zakat fund in Mithi Hospital Tharparkar in 2014 for the treatment of patients, but only ten per cent of it was spent because doctors did not utilise the budget given that a majority of patients were Hindus.
“This is a social evil in our society that we give priority in the name of religion and sect rather than serving humans,” said the Sindh Zakat Council Chairman Justice (retd) Zahid Kurban Alvi. He said the Sindh Zakat Council puts emphasis on releasing funds from Zakat for hospitals and infrastructure development.
An official in Zakat department told The Express Tribune that civil hospital in Umer Kot did not auction the medicines for quite some time seemingly because a majority of the medical stores and medicine suppliers belongs to the Hindu community.
“When we inquired the reason for delay in awarding tenders, the medical superintendent remarked how we could give tenders to Hindus,” a senior official in Zakat office said while referring to religious polarisation in the district, which is dominated by Hindus.
Mufti Mohmmad Naeem, who heads Karachi’s Jamia Binoria, said Zakat cannot be given to Hindus, but government should keep another provision for non-Muslim patients.
Abbas Memon, a social welfare officer in Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC), said a committee comprising head of the hospital, a most senior professor, and the Zakat district chairman concerned and Zakat officer of the area decide about distributing Zakat among patients.
“Patients Aid Foundation and other non-governmental organisations can help non-Muslims deserving free treatment, otherwise we don’t have such a provision,” he said.
MNA Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, who is also patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council, referred to Quaid-e-Azam’s August 11, 1947 speech and said, “Non-Muslims are equal citizens, but unfortunately we are treated as second class citizens having no rights,” he said, and vowed to raise the issue in parliament.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 11th, 2016.