Munaj Gul Muhammad
For time immemorial, poverty and human rights violations in Balochistan have shattered the hopes, dreams, and mental health of hundreds of thousands of people. Of all ill-fated causes, poverty reigns supreme while it engulfs the happiness and dreams of people. Zara*, 24, is a resident of Quetta city. To her dismay, she also found herself among the victims of poverty and was not allowed to continue her study after her engagement was fixed.
Zara* was told to contact Helpline 1089. Following her contact with the referred helpline, she could see a silver lining that led to her emancipation from depression and anxiety. Helpline 1089 is an initiative taken by the Women Development Department Balochistan that has been to the rescue of women such as Zara*.
The Helpline 1089 was launched in Quetta in the year 2021 and was considered to be a welcome step taken by the provincial government of Balochistan. Helpline 1089 is funded by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and it is a convenient platform that works to shrink gender-based violence, provides psychological services, shelter homes, medical aid, police aid, and legal consultation and support for financially weak people. It receives cases from different areas of the Province.
Mahnoor Mustafa, a psychologist working with the Helpline, says, “The Helpline 1089 of the Women Development Department has dealt with more than 300 different cases from Balochistan. It is a massive modification and a welcome step as the unnoticed issues are now being dealt with properly and timely.” She further adds that overall 50 percent of financial cases were reported from 2021 till now from across the province. The department, she says, refers the registered cases to the concerned departments for a follow-up. “For example, financial cases are referred to Bait-ul-Mal, cybercrimes to FIA, mental health to psychologists, and violence to legal experts, and medical cases to civil hospital,” she tells Balochistanvoices. People call the helpline 1089 at any time of the day as it functions round the clock by a dedicated team who respond to calls and forward the complaints to the relevant departments.
Moreover, torture and physical violence take a heavy toll on victims’ mental health. Many people are victims of psychical violence. Mir Shezad Iqbal, programme specialist working on gender-based violence (GBV), says, “Helpline 1089 was established in Quetta by the provincial government of Balochistan to ensure safe and free environments for women as the problems could be addressed in an effective manner through such social organisations.” To improve the efficiency of the Helpline, he believes, a strong collaboration between departments of mental health, and the department of social welfare and concerned agencies is essential.
Sakindar, a staff member of the Helpline, tells BV that the Helpline has been dealing with the cases such as divorce, familial issues including relationships, career counseling, education, mental health, and financial cases. According to him, since its initiative, the role of the Helpline has been significant.
Shama Jaffar works with the Helpline as a legal advisor responding to cases related to familial issues and divorce including others. She believes that the Helpline is a platform that has the potential to assist the complainant in many ways. “Our department has assisted many a complainant by forwarding the complaints to the concerned departments and urging them to follow up.” Along with attending the complaints and solving them, Jaffar adds, her team holds continuous awareness sessions on GVB issues.
With the formation of the Helpline by the Women Development Department, many people have been utilising the services of the Helpline. Nevertheless, the Makran Division has not been on the list of services. The division is in dire need of such services. Many cases of gender-based violence go unreported in Makran because the victims do not have access to Helpline. Moreover, they have no awareness of the establishment of the department. The government needs to extend the Helpline to other districts of Balochistan. On the other hand, the lack of psychological counseling and treatments is next to zero in Makran. Setting up Helpline in Makran division and other districts of Balochistan might decline the growing ratio of suicides and other psycho-social issues.
There is an urgent need to have a forum for helplines providing counseling and psychosocial support to the people of Makran. Sadly enough, the division seems to have gone ignored by all tiers of government. In the recent past, suicide cases were at a peak in Makran.
“Many youths are jobless. The trend of attempting suicide is growing rapidly in Makran owing to dependency and other social issues including unemployment.” Says Zeeshan, a writer-cum-medical student based in Turbat. “The quality of health services is poor across the province. People are forced to visit other provinces for treatment and when it comes to mental health it is the worst.”
Apart from suicide cases, many cases of gender-based violence go unreported in Makran as there is no concerned department to deal with the rising cases. When the Helpline is extended to the Makran division, the people would be able to register their complaints remotely or meet the staff members of the department in person.
Siraj Gul, an advocate based in Turbat, tells BV, “Many students leave their studies because of financial issues. If a department like Helpline 1089 is established in Makran, it might be supportive to many students to get an education,”
Gafoor, a graduate of Turbat University, emphasizes the provision of fundamental rights which are granted in the Constitution of Pakistan. He believes that extending Helpline 1089 in every district of Balochistan will lessen gender-based violence and it will protect youth from many psychosocial problems. He says ensuring fundamental rights to the citizens is an important matter.
Makran division has been ignored by all successive governments. Once Helpline 1089 is established in every district of Balochistan, particularly in Makran, there would be a phenomenal decline in gender-based violence.
*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of interviewees.
The writer holds an LLB degree from the Department of Law, University of Turbat. He tweets at @MunajGul.
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