By Shujauddin Qureshi
It is very disheartening to see women, children and elderly men begging along the under-construction road leading towards the famous picnic point Haleji Lake near Gujjo town in Thatta district. Mostly fishermen these people live in thatched huts near the lake in very bad conditions and many fish in the lake in their licensed boats.
The same scene can be witnessed when one goes to Mubarak village on the Karachi coast bordering Balochistan province. As a matter of fact, people in rural areas in Sindh, in general, are living in abject poverty due to meagre livelihood opportunities and a lack of basic facilities on the part of the state. But these scenes in Thatta and Karachi are quite awful as a number of people are begging from the visitors.
Some NGOs and so-called philanthropists from Karachi usually distribute food and clothes to these poor people when they come along with their families to these places. This practice of charity sometimes becomes a humiliation to these poor people.
I witnessed such a scene on Sunday, November 29, 2020, when I visited Haleji Lake, where the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) organised its 30th annual marathon.
A local NGO led by cricketer Javed Miandad from Karachi had brought warm clothes and food items for distribution among people. A Suzuki carrier filled with used warm clothes and foodstuff was throwing warm clothes towards the children and women who were running behind the vehicle to fetch one or more items. In such an attempt I saw many children and some women fall down in a stampede-like situation. I saw this method of distribution for the first time as it was completely against morality and justice.
Haleji Lake is said to be a perennial freshwater lake spread over an area of 6.58 square kilometres in size and is surrounded by marshes and brackish seepage lagoons. It is considered a sanctuary for migratory birds. Flocks of migratory birds fly in this part of the world at the start of the Winter season every year and stay at various water bodies in Sindh and Balochistan.
Recently the Sindh Tourism Development Corporation (STDC) has set up a resort for staying and the road is under construction to attract tourists to the lake. A number of visitors from Karachi regularly visit the lake and can be seen fishing with their fishing rods. Poaching or killing birds is strictly prohibited in the lake. A wildlife office is also located at the lake.