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Poverty Drives Pakistanis to Suicide

Published: 05/03/2012 01:19:00 AM GMT
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ISLAMABAD - The family of Aliya was happy for the imminent wedding of their 28-year-old daughter, but their happiness turned into a shock over hearing the news that their beloved has committed suicide.“She was fully aware (more)

ISLAMABAD - The family of Aliya was happy for the imminent wedding of their 28-year-old daughter, but their happiness turned into a shock over hearing the news that their beloved has committed suicide.

“She was fully aware of difficulties we had been facing to cope with her wedding expenses,” Nooran bibi, the blind mother of Aliya, told on Friday, March 2.

“I could not see her face expressions, but her tone suggested to me that she was under immense stress.”Committing Suicide as a Protest: Permissible?

Aliya hanged herself to a ceiling fan in the north-eastern city of Lahore weeks before her wedding over the suffering of ailing father, who has been sweating blood to fulfil wedding expenses.

“We always tried to solace her but she became emotional when she would see her ailing father running from here to there to arrange her wedding (expenses),” the bereaved mother recalled.

“And ultimately we saw her body hanging to the fan,” she added with tears rolling down her cheeks.

Aliya is not the only case.

Zahoor, a widow, threw herself in front of a fast moving train in Lodhran town, 400 km south of Lahore, a few weeks ago after killing her three children as she could not afford to feed them.

Estimates show that rising numbers of Pakistanis commit suicide over their economic woes.

Though there are no officials statistics about suicides in Pakistan, NGOs estimate that nearly 1,600 people committed suicide in 2011.

Statistics indicate that a majority of people who committed suicide were under the age of 30.

Poverty, unemployment, health issue, homelessness, family disputes and depression are the main causes behind the growing suicides in the south Asian Muslim country.

Many of those who do not dare to take this extreme step find no other option but to abandon their children.

Pakistan, a close ally to the United States and the West in the so-called “war on terror”, has incurred a loss of 70 billion dollars in the past decade.

Analysts fear that growing economic pressures could push the suicide figure even higher in the country, where 34 percent of the total population lives below poverty line, according to World Bank statistics.

Government statistics, however, put the number of people living under poverty line between 16 and 18 percent.

Helping Hands

Many poor Pakistanis find suicide the only way to escape their abject poverty.

“Suicide rate has overwhelmingly soared during the last decade, mainly because of ever-increasing poverty,” Rashid Qureshi, an official at Al-Khidmat Foundation, told

“People under sever frustration are killing themselves and their children thinking that this is the only way to escape poverty.”

Suicide is prohibited in Islam, and is considered a criminal offence with punitive laws in almost entire Muslim world.

Seeking to alleviate their suffering, Islamic charities and NGOs launch projects to help poor Pakistanis.

One of these charities is Al-Khidmat Foundation, the country's largest Islamic charity, which is running a project named “Saibaan” (Shadow) for homeless women and children, where they are also provided with education and technical skills.

NGOs also place cots outside orphanages with signs reading “Do not kill your children, leave them here and we will care for them."

“We are asking people not to kill yourself or your children. If you cannot feed them, hand them over to us. We will feed and educate them,” Qureshi said.

Al-Khidmat Foundation is also running several schools across the country for orphan children, especially those who lost their parents in a massive earthquake in Azad Kashmir in 2005 that killed nearly 80,000 people.

The charity has also launched a microfinance scheme in various parts of the country under which interest-free loans are provided to needy people to start small businesses to make a living.

Sailani Welfare Trust, another Islamic charity, is also running 100 meal centers in different areas in Pakistan, where poor and needy people can have food twice a day.

“Food and shelter are the two prime requirements of a human being,” Nasira Illyas, a Karachi-based social worker, told

“And this is the prime responsibility of a government to provide food and shelter to its people, but unfortunately, this is not the priority of our government.”Illyas opines that though efforts by Islamic charities and NGOs are commendable, they still cannot contribute to a satisfactory level unless the government takes some serious initiatives to contain the sky-rocketing suicide rate.

Reproduced with permission from

A man and child eat food that they begged for from a nearby food stall, outside a closed shop in Karachi January 31, 2012.