In southern Pakistan, marginalized women seek empowerment through home ownership

Pummy Kohli stitches a cloth at her new house build under the Low-Cost Houses program in Tando Bago area, Badin district of Sindh province, southern Pakistan on April 18, 2022. (AN Photo/Zulfiqar Kunbhar)
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Updated 26 April 2022

In southern Pakistan, marginalized women seek empowerment through home ownership

  • Under government program, 16,000 women have already received homes in the poorest regions of Sindh province
  • Pakistan lacks 10 million housing units, 60 percent of which are needed for low-income families

BADIN, SINDH: Shabnam Pitafi has never lived in a place she could call her own and never dreamt that one day she would, until last month, when she received a brick house under a scheme to empower some of Pakistan’s poorest women.
The 30-year-old farmer comes from Tando Bago area in the Badin district of southern Sindh province, where the local government is helping poor rural women build homes with ownership rights.
The Low-Cost Houses (LHC) program was launched in the districts of Sukkur, Shikarpur, Kashmore and Jacobabad in 2009, and later extended also to Badin, Ghotki, Khairpur, Mirpurkhas, Sanghar, Thatta, Tharparkar and Umerkot.
The government pays each beneficiary Rs165,000 ($880) for the construction of a two-room brick home.
“This lifetime achievement of owning a house brings very special feelings to me and my family,” Pitafi told Arab News.
It also changed her status not only among the immediate, but also extended relative.
“Since I own a house now, I can influence my husband in decision-making,” she said. “I have planned a party this Eid and invited my parents and relatives.”
Authorities say the women selected for the housing program all fall under the “poorest of the poor” category.
Ninety-five percent of them work on farms, according to the Sindh Rural Support Organization, which implements the project.




Workers construct a brick house under the Low-Cost Houses program in Tando Bago area, Badin district of Sindh province, southern Pakistan on April 18, 2022. (AN Photo/Zulfiqar Kunbhar)

“For generations, most of these women were living along with their families at landlords’ lands or slums,” said Ghulam Rasool Samejo, the organization’s regional general manager.
To acquire land for construction — which costs around $430 — some of the women have sold their livestock, while some others were lucky to receive small plots from their employers. In Badin, 500 houses under the LCH program were built on land donated by 30 local landlords.
One of them was Ishrat Ali Pitafi, who gave a plot with ownership rights to a family that had worked for him for over a decade.
“This landless family has worked as farmers on my agricultural lands for 15 years,” he told Arab News. “I am glad that finally they will get a new house.”
Each of the houses built under the program has two rooms, a toilet, veranda and drainage.
For Pummy Kohli, this means security her family had not known before, as they used to live in a mud house on their landlord’s land in Tando Bego. The hut was regularly washed off by rains during the monsoon season.




A newly constructed house under the Low-Cost Houses program in Badin district of Sindh province, southern Pakistan on April 20, 2022. (Photo courtesy: Sindh Rural Support Organization)

“In the past, rains damaged my mud house, forcing me and my family to migrate,” the 35-year-old mother of five said. “Moving to a permanent place will benefit my children. It will ensure the continuity of their education and improve their health.”
So far, 16,000 houses have been built out of the 27,000 planned under the program, Pervez Ahmed Chandio, director general at the Sindh People’s Poverty Reduction, Planning and Development Department, told Arab News.
While lifechanging for thousands of families who otherwise might never have afforded this kind of security, it is still a drop in the ocean of needs in Pakistan, a country that lacks 10 million housing units — 60 percent of which are needed for low-income families.
“The government needs to increase the number of such houses. In a country which needs 10 million houses, provision of houses in thousands is not enough,” Dr. Kaiser Bengali, economist and former development adviser to the Sindh chief minister, told Arab News.
But he admitted that the program was already a “revolutionary step” and one that also improved women’s chances of earning, as having their own place they could start small businesses.
“This will work for women’s empowerment, as owning a house means a sense of security,” he told Arab News. “Nobody will throw the owner out of her house now.”


Pakistan cuts petrol price by more than Rs12 per liter 

Updated 01 October 2022

Pakistan cuts petrol price by more than Rs12 per liter 

  • The reduction in fuel prices comes days after Ishaq Dar takes over as Pakistan’s new finance minister 
  • Many have since pinned their hopes on the 72-year-old financial wizard for a respite in economic woes 

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani government on Friday announced a massive cut in the prices of petroleum products, with petrol going down my more than Rs12 per liter. 

With the reduction of Rs12.63, a liter of petrol now costs Rs224.80, according to a notification issued by the country’s finance division. 

The price of high-speed diesel has been reduced by Rs12.13 to Rs235.30. Kerosene oil and light diesel oil have gone down by more than Rs10 to Rs191.83 and Rs186.50 per liter, respectively. 

“In the wake of reduction of petroleum products prices in the international market and with a view to provide relief to the consumers, the government has decided to decrease the prices of petroleum products,” the finance division said in the notification. 

Pakistan revises petroleum prices every fortnight. The new prices have already taken place across the South Asian country, which is witnessing a 47-year high inflation at 27.3 percent since August. 

The reduction in petroleum prices comes days after Ishaq Dar took over as the country’s new finance minister, with many pinning hopes on him for a respite in the country’s economic woes. 

Besides inflation, Pakistan is grappling with a balance-of-payment crisis, a widening current account deficit and a weakened national currency. 

Dar, a member of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party, on Wednesday vowed to rein in inflation and bring stability to the currency market, where the rupee had been trading close to an all-time low until a few days ago. 

He also warned speculators and hoarders to dollars. 

Pakistan’s currency market has shown some signs of stability after the change of command at the finance ministry, with the Pakistani rupee gaining 0.52 percent of its value against the US dollar on Friday. The greenback closed at Rs228.45 at the end of week. 


At medical camps, a flood of disease after rains deluge in southern Pakistan 

Updated 34 min 45 sec ago

At medical camps, a flood of disease after rains deluge in southern Pakistan 

  • Nearly 350 people have died in Sindh province since July 1 of diseases that have spread in the aftermath of floods. 
  • Doctors have treated 3.38 million patients with diarrhea, skin and respiratory infections, malaria, dengue at 21,955 medical camps 

DADU, Sindh: Inside a small tent on a major highway in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province, Shabiraan Ameer held up her arms and moved her face to a side to bare her neck, both covered in rashes and stained with blood from constant scratching. 

Ameer’s family is only one among nearly 15 million people affected by recent floods in Sindh and living in tent-cities and makeshift shelters on roadsides or staying back in flooded villages, surrounded from all sides with water. 

As waters from the floods recede, which officials say may take up to six months, swaths of Pakistan, particularly the Balochistan and Sindh provinces, have become infested with diseases including malaria, dengue fever, diarrhea and skin infections. 

According to a Sindh health department report, nearly 350 people have died since July 1 of diseases that have spread in the aftermath of floods. Doctors have treated 3.38 million patients with diarrhea and skin diseases, acute respiratory infection (ARI), and suspected and confirmed cases of malaria, dengue and other conditions at 21,955 medical camps in Sindh. 

“It [skin] bleeds when I rub it,” Ameer, a young mother of two, told Arab News. “I clean the wound with a cloth, then I sit and cry.” 

In Dadu district where Ameer is from, Pakistan’s largest freshwater lake of Manchar burst its banks, submerging hundreds of villages and displacing nearly 0.8 million people. 

As the water level rose three weeks ago, Ameer and her entire family were forced to tread to safety through toxic waters. 

“We don’t have a home and if we had money, we would have treated this,” Ameer said of her infection. “My entire body is taken over by disease.” 

Pointing to her children, she added: “My small children shout and cry in pain. Their bodies also bleed, they weep.” 

Many patients interviewed by Arab News at government medical camps for flood survivors in Dadu said they were not attended by doctors or given proper medication. 

“I got my check-up, but fever doesn’t go away,” Ibrahim, a child whose mouth had rashes due to high-fever, told Arab News. 

Rukhsana, who only gave her first name, said her three-year-old son had been ill for over a month: 

“I got him treated at a government hospital, we have given him a lot of medicines but his fever doesn’t go away.” 

Doctors and organizers at the tent city admitted they did not have adequate resources to deal with the scale of the problem, especially when there was one doctor available per 500 patients. 

Flight Lt. (R) Musarrat Shah, a social activist who is running a tent-city in Kakkar, said women and children were particularly vulnerable. 

“We are unable to provide good treatment and good medicines to this large scale of people,” she said. “A single doctor for 500 … is not enough when people are facing so many diseases, so many problems.” 

Dr. Muhammad Ali Chandio, a government doctor in Dadu’s main city camp, said fever and skin disease were rampant at the facility and malaria was suspected in a growing number of people. 

“The water available here is not clean, which is causing abdominal diseases in people, there are cases of diarrhea, cholera,” the doctor said. “If the environment is not good, then it’s obvious that diseases will spread.” 

At the IDP camp in Dadu city, Dr. Saima Parveen, the doctor in charge, said medicines needed proper storage and an enabling environment to work. 

“Fever will subside if you give syrup, paracetamol to kids with high fever but this environment, and this weather, the hot weather, will not let the fever go away,” she said. 

“They [doctors] gave anti-malarial to children but due to the atmosphere here, the dirty water standing here, the mosquitoes will come, mosquitoes bite them and they get malaria again.” 

Chandio added: “A temperature of 25 Celsius is required to keep medicines but here it is very hot and the medicines get spoiled and they are no longer effective.” 


Pakistan batter Haider Ali in hospital with viral illness 

Updated 01 October 2022

Pakistan batter Haider Ali in hospital with viral illness 

  • Haider Ali is the second Pakistan T20 World Cup player admitted to hospital during the series 
  • Ali scored 18 runs off 14 balls but the middle-order batter felt dizziness in the dressing room 

LAHORE: Pakistan cricketer Haider Ali was taken to hospital because of a viral illness during the Twenty20 against England on Friday. 

Ali is the second Pakistan T20 World Cup player admitted to hospital during the series after fast bowler Naseem Shah, who also fell ill. 

Ali scored 18 runs off 14 balls but the middle-order batter felt dizziness in the dressing room and was substituted. Pakistan ultimately lost the sixth T20. 

Ali has had a below-par series, scoring 11, 3, 4 and 18. 

Paceman Shah spent two nights in a local hospital at Lahore because of pneumonia. He was ruled out of the remaining two T20s of the seven-match series after testing positive for COVID-19 on Thursday. 

Shah will isolate for two days, and the Pakistan Cricket Board said he will fly out to New Zealand with the team on Monday for a triangular T20 series also featuring Bangladesh, a prelude to the T20 World Cup in Australia. 


UN to seek $800 million more in aid for flood-hit Pakistan

Updated 28 min 26 sec ago

UN to seek $800 million more in aid for flood-hit Pakistan

  • Unprecedented deluges have killed 1,678 people in Pakistan since mid-June
  • About half a million survivors are still living in tents and makeshift shelters

ISLAMABAD: The United Nations will seek $800 million more in aid from the international community to respond to soaring life-saving needs of Pakistani flood survivors, a UN official said Friday.

The unprecedented deluges — likely worsened by climate change — have killed 1,678 people in Pakistan since mid-June. About half a million survivors are still living in tents and makeshift shelters.

Julien Harneis, the UN resident coordinator in Pakistan, told reporters in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, that the latest appeal will be issued from Geneva on Tuesday. It comes just weeks after the agency sought $160 million in emergency funding for 33 million people affected by floods.

Harneis said the UN decided to issue the revised appeal “to respond to the extraordinary scale of the devastations” caused by the floods. Pakistan’s displaced are now confronting waterborne and other diseases, he said. The outbreaks, health officials say, have caused more than 300 deaths so far.

Since July, several countries and UN agencies have sent more than 130 flights carrying aid for the flood victims, many of whom complain they have either received too little help or are still waiting for aid.

Officials and experts have blamed the rains and resulting floodwaters on climate change. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visited some of the flood-hit areas earlier this month. He has repeatedly called on the international community to send massive amounts of aid to Pakistan.

The Pakistani government estimates the losses from the floods to be about $30 billion.

Meanwhile, the US embassy in Pakistan took to Twitter, saying Ambassador Donald Blome on Friday signed the second US-Pakistan bilateral agreement under the G20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative, providing $132 million in US debt relief to flood-hit Pakistan. “Our priority is to redirect critical resources in Pakistan,” it said.


Salt’s 88 trumps Babar’s 87 to set up T20 decider

Updated 30 September 2022

Salt’s 88 trumps Babar’s 87 to set up T20 decider

  • Salt’s ruthlessness was the reason why England won by eight wickets to even the series 3-3
  • Pakistan and England play seventh and last match on Sunday at the same Qaddafi Stadium

LAHORE: Phil Salt’s 88 trumped Babar Azam’s 87 for England to beat Pakistan in a Twenty20 on Friday and set up a series decider. 

Both openers carried their bats through the sixth match, and Salt’s extra ruthlessness was a big reason why England won by eight wickets to even the series 3-3. 

They play the seventh and last match on Sunday at the same Qaddafi Stadium. 

Salt smashed an unbeaten 88 off 41 balls, propelling a chasing England to 170-2 in just 14.3 overs. 

Babar anchored Pakistan to 169-6 with an unbeaten 87 off 59 balls. 

Salt’s brutal batting in the powerplay led England to 82-1, the most runs ever conceded by Pakistan in the first six overs. 

Alex Hales made 27 off 12 balls and added 55 runs with Salt. Then Dawid Malan and Ben Duckett combined with Salt to get England home with 33 balls to spare. 

In the absence of rested fast bowler Haris Rauf and an ill Naseem Shah, Pakistan’s pace bowlers struggled to halt Salt’s power-hitting. 

Salt scored only 59 runs in the previous five games, but hit 13 fours and three sixes in a brutal display as hundreds of home team fans left Qaddafi in disappointment midway through England’s run chase. 

It was a remarkable turnaround for the visitors after failing to chase down below-par totals in the last two games, losing by three runs at Karachi and by six runs at Lahore on Wednesday. 

Earlier, Pakistan’s top order struggled without the world’s top ranked T20 batter Mohammad Rizwan, who was rested after scoring four half-centuries in the previous five games. 

Rizwan’s replacement, wicketkeeper-batter Mohammad Haris scored 7 on debut before slicing an easy catch to short third man off Richard Gleeson, who replaced the rested Chris Woakes. 

Shan Masood continued to struggleat No. 3 as he was trapped lbw by David Willey for a duck, and Haider Ali couldn’t impress again by holing out in the deep on 18 off Sam Curran. 

Pakistan's Iftikhar Ahmed, left, celebrates with batting partner Babar Azam after hitting a boundary during the sixth twenty20 cricket match between Pakistan and England, in Lahore, Pakistan, on September 30, 2022. (AP)

Babar held the innings together with Iftikhar Ahmed (31) and Mohammad Nawaz (12) as Pakistan made 99 runs in the latter half of its innings. 

Salt and Hales combined for a rapid half-century stand off just 23 balls. Hales holed out while playing a slog sweep against legspinner Shadab Khan. 

Salt and Malan scored freely against fast bowlers Shahnawaz Dahani (0-33), Aamer Jamal (0-30) and Mohammad Wasim (0-29) before Malan was trapped by Shadab on 26. 

Duckett hit a breezy unbeaten 26 beside Salt to take England home.