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Living with poverty: Pakistan

Photo of the Manchar Lake People's Assembly, which Panos London helped to organise as part of the Living with Poverty project

Photo of the Manchar Lake People's Assembly, which Panos London helped to organise as part of the Living with Poverty project

These accounts cover many aspects of poverty, but all convey a powerful sense of exclusion and marginalisation.

Living with poverty: Pakistan testimonies

Allah Bux: older generation

Allah Bux: 'Most of my age-mates have already died and only a few of them are alive'

At the age of 50, Allah Bux refers to himself as “old” and says many of his “age-mates” have died. His poor health means there is little he can do and, like his peers, he is deeply in debt. Although the moneylenders treat them quite well, lack of work has lost them the respect of…

Basran: desperate times

Basran: 'We have no livelihood… there are only small fish. We now survive by begging'

More than 20 people share Basran’s small family home on the edge of Manchar Lake. The house is in bad repair; once it is mended, she says, they can think about arranging marriages for their remaining unmarried children (in times of extreme poverty her family has”sold” daughters in marriage). Basran explains that the lake’s water…

Chhutta: migrant’s tale

Chhutta: 'Probably they don't consider us Pakistani, [but] during the election campaign they always come to take votes from us'

Chhutta is in his 80s. His family migrated to Sanghar city when their lands became unproductive due to lack of rain. They now depend on casual labour, which brings in very little income. He would like to go back to rearing and trading livestock, but without a loan it is impossible. Like others, he feels…

Fatima: vulnerable lives

Fatima: 'We can just hope that after listening to this conversation the government will give us some help'

Fatima is 60, and lives on an old houseboat on Manchar Lake with her husband Allah Bux. Her family has fished for generations, but pollution has all but destroyed the fish stocks. Her sons take on casual labour whenever they can – and even manage to catch ducks for a little extra income – but…

Hodat: diversifying business

Hodat: 'Some of us bought goats; some opened shops; some bought sewing machines...'

Hodat is in her 30s and moved to Garkuno Miani village when she married some 18 years ago. Her community has dwindled in size and become increasingly impoverished as the fish stocks in Manchar Lake have declined. Her family can no longer make ends meet from fishing, and her father subsidises her everyday expenses. Drinking…

Karim Bux: lacking support

Karim Bux: 'The government does not pay any attention to our area…'

Karim Bux is 35, and has lived since birth near Manchar Lake. One of his eight brothers has gone to Saudi Arabia as a labourer, and his remittance seems crucial to the family’s survival. Karim Bux also worked abroad – in Afghanistan as a fisherman – but it was only a short-term solution. His family…

Khamiso: looking back

Khamiso: 'We have become [poor and] jobless because we did not migrate from here'

Khamiso is in his 70s, and lives with his large extended family near Manchar Lake. With only three of them earning money, they continually have to take out loans. In his youth, Khamiso had a shop and was creditor to many customers: “People were indebted to us, but now we are indebted to others.” Drought…

Kishore: living prudently

Kishore: 'Poor people only can imagine the issues of the poor.'

Kishore is 30, married with two children, and the owner of a small shop. His father was addicted to hashish and seems to have left them when the children were young; his mother brought them all up, her only income from begging. He sees three main factors that keep people poor: lack of education; living…

Mircho: losing dignity

Mircho: 'There is no appreciation of an honest and hardworking labourer…'

Mircho has worked all his life, initially as a tailor but mostly at hard labouring jobs. With the income of his wife and sons, it seems that Mircho’s family has avoided permanent debt. But extra expenses, notably the marriages of their three daughters, necessitated taking out loans on punishing interest rates. Rising prices have made…

Nasreen: just surviving

Nasreen: 'When we earn we will eat, otherwise we will continue to sit idle'

Nasreen is a 62-year-old woman who lives in Sohchiparah, a poor Hindu community in Sanghar. Her husband works as a shoe repairer – their caste occupation – and his earnings are erratic. Nasreen used to sell bangles, but now goes to different homes begging for aata (flour) with which she makes their daily bread, and…

Nazeer: high standards

Nazeer (Pakistan): "Nobody pays any attention to us"

Nazeer is 75, and father of eight. At Partition, his parents left all they owned in India and came to Pakistan, making their living as labourers. He taught himself to read and write a little, and managed to give his sons some basic schooling – several work as rickshaw drivers, an occupation he regards as…

Salma: independent spirit

Pakistan: residents spoke of their fight to meet basic needs

Salma, in her late 40s, has lived “like a lioness”, challenging social norms and earning the family’s living. When her husband did not provide for her, she left him, taking their two children, and set up as a tailor in Sanghar. He later joined her but Salma – now a mother of 10 – remains…

Testimonies

Allah Bux: older generation

Basran: desperate times

Chhutta: migrant’s tale

Fatima: vulnerable lives

Hodat: diversifying business

Karim Bux: lacking support

Khamiso: looking back

Kishore: living prudently

Mircho: losing dignity

Nasreen: just surviving

Nazeer: high standards

Salma: independent spirit

Key themes

Introduction to the project

Loans and debt

Survival strategies

The cost of poverty

Environmental decline

Gender

Political representation

Powerlessness

Insecurity and conflict

Education

Food security and health