Counting stars under the sky with the love of your life sounds like a perfect illustration of dream for many of us, however, what if I tell you that there are as many as twenty million people including children in Pakistan living bareheaded under this sky with few essentials with them? And the essentials include rugged footpaths, dry bread (rooti) and torn clothes.
This is the picture of every major chowks, roads and cities of our beloved country. The intensity demands immense amount of attention and concrete plan towards the ‘Homelessness’- a social issue which has haunted many nations and communities worldwide. The issue demanding the system to understand and solve the root causes of this phenomenon.
Basic necessities such as food, shelter and clothing to which we usually take for granted are quite a struggle for huge chunk of homeless population around us. It is important to note that there might be no absolute end to this riddle and there are many solutions at once.
I think due to unjust resource allocation, political affiliation and corruption the issue has become bad to worse, but that is another part of the story. I as a citizen has observed that due to lack of comprehensive regional developmental policies people of villages and small towns often try to move to the places better in terms of opportunities with no concrete plan and without assurance to sustain their work. Which makes them and their families vulnerable to mafias and their crimes later.
With no geographical barriers, you can easily spot bunch of people living on side of streets in Karachi. Be it Badar Commercial (DHA), Outside Karachi Medical and Dental College, (KMDC) or the main roundabout of Aisha Manzil or Bhadurabad.
The contribution in the cause of Homelessness might be poverty, lack of technical skills/education, family breakdown, drugs and disabilities. If lucky enough Unemployment makes families dependent on close relatives and non-for-profit organization for raashan to the effected families otherwise as mentioned earlier the families migrate in search of work to the big cities, making conditions super challenging financially. Most of the families in Karachi usually come from Southern Punjab, the Seraiki belt and interior Sindh.
Lack of technical skills and education is one of the major reasons contributing to this social issue, this not only creates gap between the people and the job market but also undermines the potential of the country. To curb this situation, many NGOs such as Saylani and Alamgir Trust and government technical centers are working, however, due to low marketing and less reach to the people these courses remained undermined.
People with the disability either physical or mental are usually seen as a burden to the family. In our society, physical impaired person is seen as a bounty for beggar mafia. We as a rotten society has chosen this fortune for differently abled people; individuals and only individuals are answerable to this situation here and to the God hereafter. With all these challenges, we often see them struggling around us, creating space for themselves.
The current government of Pakistan led by Prime Minister Imran khan has envisioned the welfare state, although not significant has been done so far but baby steps have been taken in order to ensure the vision.
‘Panah Gah’ is one of the initiatives taken by this government all over Pakistan to facilitate and curb somehow the issue of Homelessness.
Panah gahs are located in major cities of Pakistan; which registers people via CNIC prior to provide facilities of free safe place to stay and access to healthy food. The feasibility of this project was questioned by many sectors of the societies; especially by the ones who do not have to worry about bread everyday, including myself.
Furthermore, it is important to note that along with the issue of homelessness the issue of hunger is usually taken for granted or rather seems insignificant to the most people in Pakistan. This government has taken initiative to curb that too, partnered with the Saylani Welfare to help them build and expand their ‘Langar khanay’ across the country. This seems a perfect example of public private partnership at least in this sector.
Unlike the promise of free education via article 25a of the constitution of Pakistan, this government seems serious with the vision of making this country the welfare state, and taken steps to assure that the government is trying its best to facilitate common people even when challenge like Covid 19 is haunting. With government doing its job, we must play our part as a citizen and fellow human beings to show empathy and make life less hard for people dreaming of roof, fresh bread and better tomorrow.