Dalits of Pakistan

Surendar Heman Valasai

In Pakistan, Dalits are mainly concentrated in Sindh. Except fewer individuals all of them are landless Haris. According to rough estimates, the Dalit population is 1.5 million in Pakistan. However, no official or authoritative figure is available. A huge majority of them is infact homeless for they have no proprietary rights of the lands they are settled in. In Tharparker, the Dalits form approximately 35 per cent of the total district population. Several hundred Dalit families lost their lands before partition due to forgeries in their ownership documents by influential tax collecting waderas of Tharparker. But illiteracy has plunged them into the darkness. They have separate utensils in rural tea and food hotels. Among the Dalits of Pakistan, Meghwar tribe is considered as more educated. The Kolhis are the most neglected and downtrodden. Many of them have won freedoms from agriculture slavery known here as "private jails" of big landlords. Bheels are also there but their literacy rate is also among the lowest in Dalit tribes.

Most of the Dalits are living in make-shift homes made of wood, and raw mud. However, fewer of them are settled in semi-urban centres.

Dalits of Pakistan are the unfortunate people for having no political leadership. Some MNAs (Members of National Assembly) were elected from Dalits but their politics revolved around making personal and family fortunes.

In Pakistan, before the October 12, 1999 coup, the Dalits had two seats in 217-member National Assembly of Pakistan.

The founder of Pakistani nation, Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah had installed a Dalit Federal Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs. However, thereafter no government has inducted any of the Dalit in Federal or any provincial cabinet as Minister. The Quaid had also given 6 per cent job quota in the federal services to the Scheduled Castes. But in 1998, Nawaz Sharif government converted the "Scheduled Castes job quota" into "Minority quota" due to the influence of caste Hindu and Christian MNAs in a National Assembly session. The two Dalit MNAs (i.e. Dr. Khatumal Meghwar & Kirshan Bheel) didn't raise any voice against this conversion though the said quota was rarely implemented in the past.

Lack of educated and social reformers among the Dalit population of Pakistan has further pushed them backward despite forming the largest portion of Hindu population.

Though the government takes interest in the complaints of Human Rights violations of Dalits in Pakistan, but the local fiefdoms make it difficult for any government action to reach its finale.

Apart from Sindh, Dalit population is also visible in the Punjab province, especially its Siraiki belt. The lone Hindu and Scheduled Caste seat in the Punjab Assembly always goes to the Dalits in every elections. However, in Sindh, Dalits were only able during the last two elections to get a single seat out of five reserved for Hindu and Scheduled Castes of the province while the rest four seats usually go to the caste Hindus.

In recent Local Bodies elections with last phase being held on joint electorate basis, three Tehsil Naib Nazim (Taluka Vice Chairman) posts were won by Dalits (i.e. Kanjimal Meghwar of Mithi Tehsil, Rawto Kolhi of Nagarparker Tehsil and Dalpat Meghwar of Chachro Tehsil).

A caste Hindu Rajput Ram Singh son of Ran Singh won the District Tharparker Naib Nazim post through the support of his 'cousin' Arbab Ameer Hassan a former MNA and son of the sister of Ran Singh Rajput.

The Dalits of Pakistan need concrete efforts to improve their education. There is no institution or organisation in Pakistan which specifically address this issue for Dalits.

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Referred by: Sashi Kanth
Published on: Sept 5, 2001
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