Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Pakistani Hindu Women Ride High On Thar Development Wave

As the world celebrates the International Day of the Girl today, the Thar development boom is empowering Pakistani Hindu women with jobs in nontraditional occupations ranging from engineering to truck driving, according to multiple media reports. These pioneering women will hopefully be a source of inspiration for young girls.

Thar Development:

Thar, one of the least developed regions of Pakistan, is seeing unprecedented development activity in energy and infrastructure projects.  New roads, airports and buildings are being built along with coal mines and power plants as part of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). There are construction workers and machinery visible everywhere in the desert. Among the key beneficiaries of this boom are Thari Hindu women who are being employed by Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC) as part of the plan to employ locals. Highlighted in recent news reports are two Hindu women in particular: Kiran Sadhwani, an engineer and Gulaban, a truck driver.

Kiran Sadhwani, a Thari Hindu Woman Engineer. Source: Express Tribune

Thar Population:

The region has a population of 1.6 million. Most of the residents are cattle herders. Majority of them are Hindus.  The area is home to 7 million cows, goats, sheep and camel. It provides more than half of the milk, meat and leather requirement of the province. Many residents live in poverty. They are vulnerable to recurring droughts.  About a quarter of them live where the coal mines are being developed, according to a report in The Wire.

Hindu Woman Truck Driver in Thar, Pakistan. Source: Reuters

Some of them are now being employed in development projects.  A recent report talked of an underground coal gasification pilot project near the town of Islamkot where "workers sourced from local communities rested their heads after long-hour shifts".

Hindu Woman Truck Driver in Thar, Pakistan. Source: Reuters 

In the first phase, Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC) is relocating 5 villages that are located in block II.  SECMC is paying villagers for their homes and agricultural land.

SECMC’s chief executive officer, Shamsuddin Ahmed Shaikh, says his company "will construct model towns with all basic facilities including schools, healthcare, drinking water and filter plants and also allocate land for livestock grazing,” according to He says that the company is paying villagers above market prices for their land – Rs. 185,000 ($ 1,900) per acre.

Hindu Women Employment:

Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC), the largest contractor working in Thar desert coal project, has committed itself to hiring locals wherever possible.

When SECMC launched its Female Dump Truck Driver Program near the town of Islamkot in Thar,  Kiran Sadhwani, a female engineer, visited several villages to motivate women to apply for the job and empower themselves, according to Express Tribune newspaper. “Not all women who are working as dumper drivers are poor or in dire need of money. It is just that they want to work and earn a living for themselves and improve the lives of their families,” she told the paper.

SEMC is hiring 30 women truck drivers for its Thar projects, according to Dawn newspaper.


As the world celebrates the International Day of the Girl today, it's good to see the Thar development boom empowering Pakistani Hindu women with jobs in nontraditional occupations ranging from engineering to truck driving. These pioneering women will inspire and empower young girls to pursue their dreams in Pakistan and elsewhere in the world.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Working Women Seeding a Silent Revolution in Pakistan

Thar Development Boom in Pakistan

Abundant, Cheap Coal Power for Pakistan

Fact-Checking Farahnaz Ispahani's Claims on Pakistani Minorities

Pakistani Hindu Population Fastest Growing in the World

Recurring Droughts in Pakistan

Thar Drought: Pre-cursor to Dust Bowl in Pakistan?

Campaign of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt About CPEC


Nigel said...

Small progress but progress nonetheless. It still becomes window dressing looking at the country in general. Women are still considered as property in the jirgas and multiple wives are allowed legally. As someone in the US, you should force change in Pakistan.

Recently in The Economist

Riaz Haq said...

Nigel: "As someone in the US, you should force change in Pakistan"

Pakistan is experiencing significant social change from within as girls are defying old traditions. The fact that Bakht Jan eloped with her boyfriend rather than accept an arranged marriage is an example of this change.

.The "peace of the dead" has ended with the continuing "eclipse of feudalism" in Pakistan. A significant part of the what the world media, politicians and pundits call terrorism is in fact an "unplanned revolution" in the words of a Pakistani sociologist, a revolution that could transform Pakistani society for the better in the long run.

Violence is being used by the defenders of a range of old feudal and tribal values in Pakistan. Some of the traditionalists are fighting to keep girls at home and out of schools and workplaces while others are insisting on continuing traditional arranged and sometimes forced marriages within their clans. Such violence is being met with brave defiance, particularly by the younger generation.

In an October 2012 speech at a social scientists conference in the Nepalese capital Kathmandu, Arif Hasan recalled what a village elder in Sindh told him about the reasons for the increase in honor killings. He said: “The young people, they’ve gone to the city, and they’ve done all the wrong things. The girls have learned how to read and write, they’ve gone to school, some of them have gone to university as well. They have no morals left, so this is bound to happen.”

When Hasan asked the village elder as to when will the honor killings stop? He replied: “The honor killings will stop when everyone becomes shameless, then it will end.” Then he added, “But I hope that I die before that day.” Hasan says "he was a man of the old, feudal rural culture, with its own pattern of behavior and way of thinking. He was part of it, and it was dying, so he wished to die with it."

Riaz Haq said...

KARACHI: Renowned (Hindu) fashion designer Deepak Perwani, along with almost a dozen other people, announced joining the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) on Sunday.

The announcement was made at a press conference held by MQM-P chief Farooq Sattar in Karachi.

Other who announced joining the party included former bureaucrat Javed Hanif, trader Khurram Rasool, Saman Laiq Abbasi, former PTI leader Farooq Dadi, Alamgir Feroz, Taufeeq Kochin and Imtiaz Ali.

Most of them are civil society members and from business community

Riaz Haq said...

#Women in #India are also saying #MeToo: “I cannot walk where I want. I cannot wear what I want" #Modi #rape #BJP

“Like most Indian women, I am not safe,” Indian author Meghna Pant wrote on Facebook Monday. “I cannot walk where I want. I cannot wear what I want. Not unless I’m ‘asking for it’… #MeToo.”

Pant is one of many Indian women flooding social media with their stories of sexual harassment and assault, just as women in the United States and around the globe do the same.

About a week after dozens of women came forward to make sexual misconduct allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, the owner of a popular bar in Pune, India, called High Spirits was also accused of sexual harassment.

As with Weinstein, an Indian blogger said a culture of silence and inaction among men with power kept the behavior from being brought to light.

Other recent high-profile cases in India include rape charges against a former magazine editor, accusations of sexual harassment against a former judge for the Supreme Court of India, and the conviction of rape for a prominent Indian guru.

In India — where a woman is raped every 20 minutes — sexual harassment and assault has become an ongoing national conversation. 2017 was brought in with reports of mass molestation at New Year’s Eve celebrations in Bangalore, and there’s a popular word, “eve-teasing,” to describe public sexual harassment, though many women find that term problematic.

Riaz Haq said...

Coal Project Is Latest Sign of Growing Pakistan-China Relationship

As the car speeds along gleaming blacktop highways in Pakistan's southern desert of Tharparkar, it is clear the new roads were not built to serve the poor herders and nomads who live in cone-shaped straw homes and subsist on herding sheep and cattle.

Indeed, a few decades ago, the Tharparkar desert in Sindh province bordering India was accessible only by crab-shaped vehicles that crawled over sand dunes by day and under star-studded skies at night, to reach the people of a forgotten century.

That changed as international feasibility studies sanctioned by Islamabad found that nearly half the desert covered coal. The turning point came as China offered to excavate and convert the fuel to help Pakistan cover its electricity shortfall of 25,000 megawatts.

So while the world turned away from coal to cleaner fuels, the Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC) began digging a layered, rectangular trough near the town of Islamkot.

Coal mine area

From above, the mining area looks like Pakistan's 5,000-year-old archaeological site, Moen Jo Daro (Mound of the Dead). But with Pakistani and Chinese flags fluttering side by side — and the hustle-bustle of dump trucks — the excavation clearly looks to the future.

Across the barren hills, the State Power International Mendong (SPIM) and China Machinery Engineering Corporation's power plants are poised to convert the coal to energy — reportedly 660 megawatts by the end of 2017.

Just outside the power plants sits a Chinese housing colony for the workers it has imported, a common practice for the country's foreign projects.

Partners in change

Meanwhile, Engro has a mandate from the Sindh government to ensure that the desert people, sitting atop the world's seventh-largest coal reserves, become willing partners in the transformation of their habitat.

Already, Engro has created "Khushal Thar" (Prosperous Thar), training 694 people on monthly stipends to be supplied to their Chinese partners.

Armed with a strategy for social change, Engro trains women as dump truck drivers. Recruiter Jehan Ara said the corporation, initially concerned about a backlash, first discussed the community's response to inducting women into an all-male profession, and only then made the positions official.

Interviewed in Islamkot, Marvi, 35, beamed at the prospect of driving dump trucks. Having six children was apparently no deterrent. Her husband, Ratan Lal, was on hand to cheer her, saying: "She is tough; she climbs trees to gather firewood and gets water from afar."

But the community has concerns that water from the mining process, discharged into Gorano village 28 kilometers away, could pollute drinking water sources. In Mithi town, people have repeatedly demonstrated to sound the alarm, with the fears echoed by Sindh's civil society.

For generations, the desert people have lived amid peacocks, sheep and camels. Engro plans to compensate and relocate them from their straw homes to model homes, fully equipped with schools and hospitals. Muslims and Hindus are to be resettled side by side, emblematic of the peaceful coexistence within the border community.

Riaz Haq said...

As rains grow erratic, Pakistan taps irrigation to protect Punjab crops

System aims to capture floodwater and monsoon runoff to boost food production in climate change-hit region

LAHORE, Pakistan, Nov 24 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Most of Tajammul Abbas's 17 acres of farmland produces nothing but fodder for his buffalo and three goats. His land, and that around him in Punjab province, depends on rain to grow crops and rainfall has become much more uncertain as climate change takes hold, leading to lost harvests.

But things are now looking more promising for him and for about 384,000 other people living in the Pind Dadan Khan-Khushab area, three hours drive from Lahore, Punjab's capital, after the government on Friday announced plans to build an irrigation system for the area.

The effort is expected to convert 68,000 hectares of minimally productive farmland to full production, using water from the Jhelum River.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) on Friday approved a $275 million loan for the project, which is supported by the Indus River System Authority (IRSA), a government agency that oversees water sharing between provinces.

"Having a sufficient and effective irrigation system is fundamental in the development of Pakistan's agriculture sector, a significant driver of the country's economy," said Ryutaro Takaku, a water specialist at the bank's Central and West Asia Department.

The project "will help increase agricultural production and improve food security in Pakistan", he noted in a press release.


Officials said the irrigation project will involve building a 117-kilometre canal to carry water diverted from the Jhelum River, 97 kilometres of secondary canals, and a range of other structures – some of which may require those now living on the land to relocate.

The system aims to catch floodwater and monsoon runoff at heavy rainfall times of the year and channel it into the irrigation network.

"There are about 128 structures that would need to be dismantled and land will have to be bought from people for the irrigation system. But there is no other option," said Muhammad Javed Iqbal Goraya, a water expert with South Asian Conservation Network, a non-governmental organization.

In an area with poor rainfall, "irrigation (is) essential for crop production. The irrigation network will help the farmers in the area to adapt to climate changes and have more crops," he said.

The area, if irrigated, could grow wheat, cotton, rice, sugarcane, maize, and other crops, said Goraya.

The project will introduce advanced technologies such as laser land leveling and high-efficiency irrigation, according to the ADB press release. About 6,000 farmers also will have the opportunity to learn climate-smart agriculture practices and more profitable farm management, the release said.

Goraya said that managing the new water resource and existing water with care will be key to ensuring the sustainability of agriculture in the area.

The project envisions 485 water user associations being formed to have a say in planning, designing and constructing the new irrigation system.

"Such associations and committees have been very helpful in some other areas of the country in managing watercourses and collecting water charges from users," Goraya said.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan invests $4.5 billion in Thar desert development in #Sindh

The Sindh Governor Muhammad Zubair has said that the investment to the tune of dollars 4.5 billion in Thar is something very significant.

He was expressing his views at an interactive session on energy held at the Governor House here on Friday.

The Governor referred to the Thar coal reserves containing 175 billion tons and said that these would help meet country energy needs for a long time to come.

The coal would not only be used for the generation of energy but would also be for provision of basic needs to the residents of the area.

Zubair said that for the betterment of infrastructure 250- bed hospital as well as schools are also being built.

The government is taking every step so that the people of Thar could benefit from the natural resources of the area.

The Governor assured that the federal government would extend every cooperation for the welfare and betterment of the people of Thar.

He informed that generation of power from Thar coal would commence from the year 2019 and this will contribute towards prosperity in the area.

Zubair said that new avenues of development would also open in Thar.

The Chief Executive Officer of Sindh Engro Coal Mine, Shamsuddin Shaikh, said on the occasion that 76 percent of jobs in Thar have been provided to the local people.

He said that the time period of the project span over 42 months but it would be completed in 36 months.

He said that first phase of the project would be executed in 2019.

The company, he added, would also adopt all the schools in Thar.

The company required 500 drivers and intermediate pass youngsters were provided training and appointed as driver with the company at the monthly salary of Rs. 30,000.

Riaz Haq said...

PPP nominates Thari Hindu woman to contest Pakistan Senate polls on general seat

Pakistan People’s Party has nominated Krishna Kumari, a Kolhi woman belonging to a remote village in Nagarparkar district of Thar, to contest for a general seat during the upcoming Senate election.

Kumari is a social activist who joined PPP along with her brother, who was elected chairman of union council Berano. She has reportedly been asked by the party leadership to file nomination papers to contest the upcoming Senate election on PPP ticket.

Born to a poor peasant Jugno Kolhi in February 1979, Kumari and her family members spent nearly three years in a private jail allegedly owned by the landlord of Kunri of Umerkot district. She was a grade 3 student at the time when held captive.

Kumari was married to Lalchand at the age of 16, when she was studying in 9th grade. However, her husband supported her in pursuing studies, as later in 2013 she did masters in sociology from Sindh University. She also actively participated and worked for the rights of downtrodden people of marginalised communities living in Thar and other areas.

When contacted, Kumari told Dawn that she was given assurances by senior party leaders that they would get her elected as Senator “to set a new precedent and empower women from remote areas and minority communities”.

Provincial minister Syed Sardar Ali Shah, MNA Dr Nafisa Shah, MPA Dr Mehesh Kumar Malani and other PPP leaders had requested the party leadership in this regard, she said.

"I was called by Bilawal Bhutto and Faryal Talpur a few days back. They said they will allot me the ticket to contest the election to become a senator on a general seat from Sindh," Kumari maintained.

Kumari said she has made all the arrangements and documentation needed to file her nomination papers after she was made the candidate by party leaders.

PPP lawmaker from Thar Dr Mahesh Kumar Malani, when contacted by Dawn, confirmed that the party had decided to give Kumari a ticket and hoped that a Kolhi girl — from the family of the valiant freedom fighter Rooplo Kolhi — would be elected with majority votes.

Rooplo Kolhi had waged a war against the invading British colonialist forces when they had attacked Sindh from Nagarparkar side in 1857. Subsequently, he was arrested and hanged by the Britishers on August 22, 1858.

Dr Malani termed it a great decision by the party chairman to select a Thari woman to represent Thar in the Upper House.