Accused of not doing enough to protect the Christian minority, the Pakistani government has taken steps to improve the quality of life for a community of poor Christians living in squalor as bonded laborers in a rural area of Jaranwala in the Punjab Province.
According to the London-based charity British Pakistani Christian Association, the High Commission of Pakistan in London authorized the construction of 10 brick washroom facilities that will serve roughly 100 Christian families who live in mud homes and are too poor to afford their own toilets, plumbing and clean drinking water.
Prior to the existence of washroom facilities, which were completed in February, the impoverished people in the community were forced to use open fields as toilets and even get their drinking water from unsanitary sources, such as puddles.
BPCA President Wilson Chowdhry told The Christian Post on Wednesday that the project was authorized by the Pakistan's High Commission in London after receiving a proposal for the project from the BPCA in 2015. He explained that the project was facilitated by the provincial government in Punjab.
BPCA discovered the dire situation in Jaranwala in 2014 when it came to the aid of two teenage Christian sisters from the community who had been abducted and gangraped by Muslim men while they were using the fields to relieve themselves in the middle of the night. They were found the next morning miles away lying on the side of the road.
"Whilst we were there, our intrepid officer Mehwish Bhatti came across many other families and discovered that Sherish and Farzana weren't alone in their use of fields as toilets. It was a very commonly occurring phenomenon amongst these impoverished families," Chowdhry stated.
"We also then discovered that most of them drink water in a very unsanitary way also," he added. "For instance, Mehwish found men drinking from puddles, where they would flick the water with their hand — a process that they seemed to think would filter out filth and other contaminants before drinking it. Some would lay a handkerchief on the floor and slurp through that."
Chowdhry said that after BPCA officers saw the conditions of the enslaved Christian community in Jaranwala, they knew that something had to be done.
"We approached a number of bodies," Chowdhry recalled. "And it just so happened that the First Minister at the Pakistan High Commission in London, the former first minister, who had been around the time we were protecting Sherish and Farzana, had seen our protest outside the Pakistani Embassy for [the imprisoned Christian mother on death row in Pakistan], Asia Bibi."
Chowdhry said that the first minister later invited him to have coffee. During their meeting, Chowdhry laid out a number of ideas for how the government can help poor Pakistani Christian communities.
"During that discussion, I put forward the suggestion that we build these washroom facilities and he quite liked the idea," Chowdhry said. "Working with Mehwish, we managed to put a proposal across for 10 properties where we believed that these toilets would serve best use, allowing people to group as clusters and share facilities so that they would have access to clean water and have access to safe, sanitary toilet facilities. The owners of the properties in which these facilities are built have an agreement in place where they will share this with other Christian families in their vacinity."