Visit our new British Pakistani Christians website

Visit our new British Pakistani Christians website
This site will no longer publish new material. Please join our new website

Thursday, 24 December 2009

No Christmas cheer for Pakistanis forced to sell kidneys
By Abbas Sahi (AFP) – 4 hours ago

YUHANABAD, Pakistan — There is no joy at Christmas for Pakistani Christians like Faqir Masih, forced by poverty to sell a kidney to unscrupulous organ traders who find easy prey among the religious minority.

The 32-year-old sells balloons to feed his mother, two brothers and sister. A year after being sliced open to sell a kidney to raise funds for his impoverished family after his father died, he still experiences agonising pain.

"Christmas, as usual, won't bring any joy this year as we can't celebrate," he says, sitting in dirty clothes on a broken bed next to his mother in the small, largely Christian town of Yuhanabad in eastern Pakistan.

"These people came and asked me to sell my kidney for 150,000 rupees (1,800 dollars). They said that I would be able to buy a new house and send my brothers and sister to a good school," he said.

"When I came round after the surgery, they gave me 40,000 rupees and warned me of serious consequences when I asked for the remaining money.

"These people didn't even give me proper medical treatment after the surgery... I still often feel excruciating pain," he said, showing a big wound on his abdomen.

There will no toys, no tree and no cheer in Masih's one-room home this Christmas. The furniture is ramshackle, with a curtain for a door. At night, temperatures drop close to freezing and the family huddle together for warmth.

Christians make up less than three percent of Pakistan's 167 million people, who are overwhelmingly Muslim, and are generally poverty-stricken and marginalised.
Most Christians in Yuhanabad, 20 kilometres (13 miles) east of Lahore, are labourers and workers, living in dilapidated houses and barely getting by.

It's a far cry from the flashy celebrations of the tiny elite of richer Christians in downtown Lahore, who buy Christmas trees, splurge on new clothes and dine out with friends and family in five-star hotels.

Pakistan's huge disparity of wealth lies at the root of the illegal kidney trade.

Adeeb-ul-Hasan Rizvi, head of the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation, is considered father of a bill in parliament to outlaw what he calls Pakistan's "big kidney bazaar".

"We calculated roughly at least 2,000 kidneys are transplanted in the country every year -- 500 legally and the rest illegally," he told AFP, putting last year's trade at 12 million dollars.

"Poor people normally sell their kidneys to the rich, a good number of whom come from the West and Gulf countries, to support their families.

"But they get little share of the bounty. The major share is taken by middle men and clinics involved in the trade."

Back in Yuhanabad, Safdar Masih -- no relation to Faqir Masih -- says he can't remember the last time he had enough money to celebrate Christmas.

"It's just a dream, which I don't think will ever come true," says the 45-year-old brick kiln worker, a father of five who was forced to sell a kidney to pay for a family wedding.
When a group of strangers offered a windfall payment for one of his kidneys, "we had no other option", he said:

"I was taken to a hospital in Lahore. I don't know which hospital. They only gave me 70,000 rupees and when I asked for more, they warned me to say nothing for my own safety."

The only Christmas presents his children will get this year are second-hand clothes donated by the Muslim families who employ his wife as a maid.
Christians are not the only victims.

Millions of Pakistanis live in bonded labour. Some sell kidneys in the hope of paying back cash advances from landlords and freeing themselves from their modern-day slavery.

Bones jutting out of his skin, Mohammad Ilyas became the fourth person in a family of 11 to sell a kidney in an effort to pay off a loan near Islamabad.

"I saw a big bucket full of knives, cutters and scissors... I got scared. I thought about running away but all the doors were locked and I was surrounded by half a dozen men who were about to cut my body," he said.

No comments:

Post a Comment