by Sufyan Alvi
With her grandmother by her side, an innocent girl, Zakia, stared at me. The one-year-old had lost her mother shortly after she was born. She didn’t know of any life aside from that of the filthy slum she was born in, just outside of Johor town in Lahore.
As her grandmother described the ordeal that she had to go through just to get milk for the little girl, a rare occasion in a household such as this one, I couldn’t help feeling fortunate and guilty at the same time.
Zakia and her grandmother, regrettably, are not the only people struggling to make ends meet. A staggering 40 per cent of Pakistan’s population, in fact, lives under $2 a day, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. Thus, approximately 67 million people in Pakistan are deprived of the basic necessities of life.
The sanitary conditions in these slums are appalling. People have dug trenches outside of their homes which are used as disposal grounds. In addition to being a breeding ground for diseases, these trenches emit a constant pungent odor. Moreover, it is common for a family of nine people to live under a tin roof in the meager space of 120 square feet.
As I talked to the resident of these slums, the failure of the government’s urban planning and lack of political will was a recurring theme in our conversations. It was blatantly evident that the youth of the slums, tiring of their desperate conditions, was turning to drugs, crime and alcohol as a means of escapism.
It is high time that the government realize that they cannot ignore the conditions of the people living in these slums any more. These issues must be urgently tackled at a national level, as no human being deserves to live like these people do.