PAKISTAN – Covid-19: religious minorities discriminated against in the distribution of food

Agenzia Fides | April 18, 2020

The “Saylani Welfare International Trust” organization has acted by discriminating religious minorities in the distribution of food, for the Covid-19 emergency, in the Sindh region. This was confirmed to Agenzia Fides by Catholic parliamentarian Anthony Naveed, a member of the Popular Party of Pakistan in Sindh. As Fides learns, the Saylani Welfare International Trust has been operating in the Korangi area (in Karachi) since 1999, distributing aid and meals to the homeless and seasonal workers. Local women queuing for their food ration in Korangi have been asked to leave the queue by Abid Qadri for their Christian and Hindu religion, but those responsible for the organization deny this incident.
Pastor Muazzam John, at the head of a Pentecostal Evangelical Church in Karachi says that “our churches have helped the local community with food rations with their own resources, but we cannot help everyone. The Church has not discriminated against anyone, but has helped all those who have come for help”.
Catholic lawyer Khalil Tahir Sandhu, president of the Standing Committee for Human Rights in the Punjab Parliament, notes to Fides that “the government does not discriminate in providing food or financial assistance to people. Although the procedure for obtaining assistance may be slow, it does not make a difference in belief or ethnicity when providing assistance. However, it is possible that the people who physically carry out the distribution may have acted with discrimination or preference. The government must take severe action and control against this danger”.
Ms. Shanila Ruth, Member of Parliament and Representative for Interreligious Harmony in the Federal Parliament, reports to Fides that provincial governments have launched the “Ahsaas Program” to provide financial support to needy families with daily support. The main goal of the government is to support all people in poverty, due to Covid-19.
Shireen Aslam, a member of the Attock District Human Rights Committee, said that “two people who distributed food rations in the Attock district also discriminated against religious minorities”. And said: “We must focus on people on the basis of humanity, on the poorest in our nation. We must all be united in this critical moment and help everyone, regardless of faith, creed or ethnicity. We must act immediately as a single nation and put aside our differences in helping people”.
The Covid-19 pandemic has suddenly deprived workers of day laborers in Pakistan. The virus has affected over 7,025 people and killed 135, and many of those affected are seriously ill and hospitalized. The government has imposed a lockdown throughout the nation.