SIALKOT - Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF) Chief Executive Officer Qazi Azmat Isa said on Saturday that his organisation will continue supporting the initiatives being taken by the Baidarie-Sialkot, an NGO, for the economic and social empowerment of the poor.

The PPAF will soon take five piloting initiatives in the country to increase the potential for employability of the youth. The initiative for the Punjab will be taken in collaboration with the Baidarie-Sialkot.

The PPAF would also, said the CEO, support the NGO for conducting an analysis of the job market, conditions of the livelihood options and exploration of job-diversification avenues.

It may be mentioned here that Qazi was heading a PPAF team during a review mission in operational areas of the NGO.

Addressing community gatherings at different places in rural areas on Saturday, the PPAF chief said his organisation was working across the country in partnership with 106 NGOs for kindling a ray of hope in the hearts and minds of the people living below the poverty and hunger lines.

“It is endeavouring hard to assure them that though the circumstances are grim and bleak, yet a sliver lining is there and that will lead them out of the clutches of the manifestations and clutches of the poverty, provided they organise themselves and begin working to change their conditions.”

He added, “We do not want to formulate our policies and take decisions during an isolated process, carried forward in estrangement of the poor for whom we proclaim to work. Instead, we prefer to go directly to the people, sit with them, understand their problems and find out the solutions of the problems through deliberations and consultations with them. That is the sole reason for meeting the people living at the core line of the rural set ups in Sialkot.”

During his interaction with social activists coming from community organizations and youth groups, he emphasised that the PPAF did not believe in models, instead it was the process of the reinforcement and strengthening of the values which “we prefer to advance”.

“It wants to instill a passion in the poor, build their knowledge and capacities and mobilise them to act for development. The PPAF cares a lot for its principles of keeping the development of the under-developed areas on its top-priority, mitigation of the feelings of deprivation and transparency at every step and action.” The PPAF chief further said that the lack of access to opportunities for employing their talents for constructive and productive purposes made colossal additions to the frustrations of the young generations and hence the potentials of the youth needed to be saved on preferential basis and harnessed to yield optimum constructive outputs.

Similarly, women constitute almost half of our population. The society , in no way can flourish and progress without letting its women empowered.

He thanked the Baidarie-Sialkot for facilitating him to come over to Sialkot and himself see the conditions in which the poor people lived and faced the hardships in making the both ends meet, the in-capacities they confronted in making headway for their social and economic development, the way the male and female youth felt and the condition of the communities that were organising themselves to peacefully assert for their rights.

Interacting during several community meetings held in villages Korowal, Mangoobehram and Manan Chnad, Baidarie-Sialkot President Hina Noureen said that untiring toils of thousands of those workers in the factories, homes and in the agricultural fields in no way let them escape out of the ruthless clutches of poverty.

Fast squeezing volume of the hand-stitched ball business because of diminishing competitiveness of Pakistan’s products in the international markets due to ever-increasing production cost, difficulties in respecting the production and shipment deadlines, increased business driven needs and trends for automation and sophistication in the industry and poor compliance of the buyers’ codes of conduct etc was going to shortly make thousands of workers jobless.

“Surely, there is no arrangement in place to bail out these voiceless victims of the economic and social repercussions of the rapid process of major cuts in the volume of the hand-stitched ball business. It is quite disturbing that so far there is no cognizance at the level of state and business sectors to apprehend this danger and there is no thought in process for taking effective measures to encounter this challenge. PPAF must take initiative to build the capacity of these workers and establish linkages so that they may have access to the income generating alternatives.”

The communities in all the villages complained that the condition of the community physical infrastructure, health and education facilities in the rural area,  fast squeezing size of the job providing slots, incapability of the poor women to be self-sustained entrepreneurs, non-availability of social safety nets for ultra-poor, non-existence of system to take care of the persons with physical limitations and repeated  acts of gross  violations of basic  human rights are the problems to whose gravity and intensity they are seriously exposed to.

It indicates that there are several pockets in the district where assumed trickle down impact of industrial growth has the least effect. People in these pockets having meagre food security are at the lowest scale of   the human development and are being badly afflicted by social, economic and political poverty. The sad part in this regard is that these people are voiceless hence are unheard and un-noticed. No pragmatic and programmatic effort is in place to change their condition for the better.

Former Sialkot Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Dr Khurram Anwar Khawaja shared the details of the “Khud Kifalat Rozgar Scheme” being run by the SCCI. Replicating the Akhuwat Model, the Rozgar Trust is providing interest-free loans to the enterprising poor. Till now, a sum of Rs 4.5 million has been disbursed to the poor which is contributing to the improvement of their livelihood options.

Dr Khurram added that the SCCI was also stepping forward to provide healthy sports activities to the youth. A league set up has been put in place and efforts are underway to popularize the foot ball game in the Sialkot region.

Baidarie-Sialkot Executive Director Prof Arshid Mehmood Mirza said that for empowering the poor and ultra poor, it was necessary that integrated support should be provided at least in the areas of Sialkot where the marginalised poor were inhabited. There should be some research study conducted to assess the prevalence of joblessness and avenue and spaces for job diversification. He added that the NGO had proved through working with a selected batch of home-based women football stitchers that there condition can be improved by employing the potentials available in the round so there should be measures in place to replicate these measures on an up-scaled level

Mirza also emphasised the need for advancing the process of Youth Development by imparting training on income generating skills, providing them with opportunities for generating micro-entrepreneurship, taking up sports and connecting them with social processes. He added that measures should also be taken for saving people from drinking heavily contaminated water.

Irfan Mufti, Muhammad Afzal Butt, Ch Shabbirul Hassan advocate, Muhammad Iqbal Ghumman and others also attended the event.