Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Floods rupture Pakistani feudal ties

Bakhsh Ali Lashari has spent the last year living in a tent since floods devastated a third of Pakistan. His home is no longer under water, but death threats mean he’s never going back.

The monsoon-triggered floods — the worst in Pakistani history – affected up to 21 million people, killed another 1,750 and ran up losses of $10 billion; a year later a shattered economy has barely recovered.

Lashari’s part of southern Pakistan was one of the worst hit areas, submerged in gushing waters that took months to recede.

But the disaster gave him a chance to break free from centuries of oppression. He is one of thousands who prefer life in rotting camps to returning to feudal estates where debts and marriages can end in death.

Lashari had a steady income as a labourer in Jacobabad, 375 kilometres north of Karachi, but said life became unbearable when an influential tribe took against one of their women marrying one of his relatives.

“The couple suddenly disappeared and the influential tribe threatened all of us with death,” said Lashari, wearing just baggy shalwar trousers and standing in a tent city on the fringes of Sukkur city. (more)