A recent news story in The Nation reported that a woman from D.G. Khan woman gave birth behind bushes of a hospital after being banished by the hospital staff. The reason for the refusal of service was that she was not able to pay the money, though that is supposed to be the hospital’s government given responsibility. This reminded me of a even more appalling incident when a lady doctor running a private maternity clinic in D.G. Khan who stole even the ear rings from the dead body of a woman who died during child birth, because her guardians had less than the required fee for the deadly process.

Here on Quaid-e-Azam road of D.G. Khan, an almost 70 year-old chemist, Mian Naseem, runs a small medical store since 1970. He belongs to the middle class and is a witty person with a keen look on the social and political affairs of the city and the country at large. He is one of the last people who know the real history of D.G. Khan.

Mian Naseem’s grandfather Mian Afzal was an Advocate and was the first elected chairman of this city (this designation was called ‘Father of the City’ at the time). Mian Afzal was elected as the chairman for three consecutive terms from 1930 to 1939. These elections were held regularly after three years. He was the member of the Board of Elected representatives whose decision could not be challenged by any governmental authority in the district. Such was the power given to the people in D. G. Khan (and so it was in all the cities). The people could reach their real representatives and ask for help, tell their grievances. Sheikh Faiz Muhammad another ancestor of Mian Naseem was the Speaker of the West Pakistan assembly.

Last evening, when I phoned Mian Naseem and asked, “How come the common people hailing from our streets were our representatives that time while today Sardars and Waderas are the undisputed rulers of our unlucky and undeveloped district that has been almost disenfranchised? Even a councillor is elected with the overt help of these Sardars.” All the seats of the National and Provincial assembly are reserved by these tribal chieftains who’ve nothing to do particularly with the city of D. G. Khan. These Sardars were a creation of the Raj for their services to the ruling empire at the cost of the poor people.

Mian Sahab gave a loud laughter and replied in a painful voice, “On the eve of Partition all these people ruling us became the members of the Muslim League switching sides from the Unionist Party in a matter of a single night.” Mian Naseem added a witty tag to his talk, “It was the first caesarean of this district.” I describe this talk in detail because it provides us with an insight about what happened during the Raj and what happened in its aftermath.

D.G. Khan is a city on the juncture of all the provinces of Pakistan. Due to its location, it has been once in the list of prospective capitals of Pakistan. Based on the surveys of 2004-2005, D.G. Khan district is considered one of the twenty poorest districts of Pakistan with about 51% of its population living below the poverty line. In the recent history there was a President from D.G. Khan, but he was a Sardar. There were two Governors but both were Sardars too.

No wonder our women have the baby blues today. It is all connected to our history of abuse of power. These imposed representatives who were the chieftains of their tribes and waderas of their area kept the people ignorant and illiterate knowingly. In the past schools were not allowed to be open in their fiefdoms. If somehow these schools emerged, they were torn down by these ‘elected’ Sardars. It’s the reason behind why men in periphery are so brutally and blindly conscious of their ‘honour’ that they don’t take their women out of home even if they’re dying of a disease. It is a closed society where knowledge is shunned. If anyway, they bring their women to hospitals, they leave them alone and move away without showing their face. Most of the people living in small villages solely depend on mid-wives who’re mostly ignorant of the benefits of modern medicine. The most famous mid-wife in the Union Council Nurpur, Jampur, is a blind lady. When women are brought to the hospital, they’re malnourished and saving their lives cannot be guaranteed.

If we come to the plight of government run hospitals, most of the medicines meant to be dispensed to the people free of cost are missing because they’re openly being sold in medical stores in the market, with the shameless and murderous connivance of the authorities. Almost 90% government doctors run their private clinics and they knowingly discourage people from the government’s free treatment so that their private practice can become lucrative. The private clinics all over the country, rather the world are a heaven for the rich. If someone wants to see hell on the earth s/he should go to a government hospital.

The story gets worse. Patients with AIDS and polio are made to escape from these government run hospitals to keep the records clear, that they’ve uprooted these diseases from their areas. One can visit some villages that have a large number of children inflicted with polio and AIDS. This can easily be senn in villages like Sakhi Sarwar. Who is going to address this criminality?

It is not just the story of D.G. Khan only that I relate, rather we can understand the national scenario through it. Most of the country has the same problems and same horrible incidents.

Who can think of issues like anti-choice or pro-choice rights of a woman when even her existence is in danger? Let’s hope for a free woman in Pakistan, who is independent to decide whether she should give birth to a child or not. Let us dream for a time when the men console and support their women when they are going through the baby blues.