By Farooq Tariq
I have never seen before such a devastating scene all my life.
The city of Bagh in Kashmir was like a real ghost town. On 18th
October, we a team of 10 from Labour Relief Campaign and newly
formed Citizen Relief Committee Lahore visited the city with some
There were no children or women in the streets. A city with a
population of 2,03,915 according to official figures was a deserted
city. The natural catastrophe has hit very hard to this city,
which is located in the valley encircled by the mountains. A beautiful
city at one time was now a total collapse. There were only few
local men in the streets. Rest of them have either died or have
shifted to another city or in a relief camp.
While passing through a totally destroyed bazaar, one local person
Mohammed Nazeer told us around 6pm while he was carrying drinking
water cans, "This was a bursting bazaar; now every collapsed
shop has bodies inside. When the earthquake struck the bazaar,
it was around 9am and many shops were open and shopping for Eid
was going on. But it was all over in 5 seconds".
The whole bazaar was stinking like any thing because of the smell
of the bodies coming out of the rubble. We had to cover our noses
as we were not very well prepared for this. We had no masks.
Suddenly we saw three soldiers of Pakistan army running to us
and asked if we have seen a team that is treating the bodies with
chemicals. Who they are, I asked. They told us that they are putting
some chemicals on the bodies so they should not stink. We have
just found three more bodies but they are so much stinking, that
has the courage to pick them up and bury.
The soldiers told us that this team is spraying the area now
and then on the rubble so the stink should be reduced. We had
not seen them so the soldier went further to look for them. Some
few relatives still are insisting that bodies to be brought out
so they could bury them with honor.
Further down, there was Bagh bus stand. It was deserted and there
were only few trucks that had brought the relief items. It was
time of ending the fast. Sun has just set down. There was no restaurant,
no tea stall, no food item sellers, no chappati makers, no one
selling any cheep items, that could have been the seen in normal
circumstances. Suddenly we saw some people in the dark crying
for some thing. We went there. It was a small shop, the only one
selling tea. He has also made some chic peas and rice. The price
was Rupees five each. Around a dozen people wanted the shopkeeper
to serve them first. They were afraid that they will be without
food if it is finished. Despite all the claims of the government
that they are providing the immediate relief and hot food, we
saw no sign of that.
At Bagh, we saw a four story hotel now totally collapsed and
bodies of the guests inside. But it was unbearable to see the
total destruction of boys Degree College. There were eight class
rooms. The classes were going on when the disastrous earthquake
hit Bagh. There were some at the three story hostel. Some were
in the science laboratories. The total strength of the college
was around 1500. Over 1000 were in the buildings. Very few were
able to survive.
Nisar Shah, chairperson of Labour Party Pakistan was with us
and he had studied at the college in early nineties. Suddenly
he recognized the care taker of the college who was walking near
by us. He called Akram and he also recognized Nisar.
Akram told us, "I had just finished my night duty at 8am.
I left college to go home after some time. While in street, the
earthquake struck. The earth was shaking in full swing. I tried
to further one step but the earth threw me back. Then I saw building
of a hospital and nearby houses falling down. I started to go
back towards the college while hearing massive cries from every
where. At college, it was all over. Almost over 1000 were trapped
under falling buildings. There was no way, I could help them.
I was there for some time, the only one as a matter of fact. I
went back to my home to find my wife seriously injured.
Akram told us that the first help came after 10 hours. It was
the people of Kotli, another town of Kashmir which survived as
it was quite far from the center of the earth quake. But these
people could not do much. What could they do with their hands?
They had no equipment to dig those who were still alive under
the rubble crying for help.
The army came after 24 hours but also had nothing to help the
trapped one. It was not one's and twos, it were thousands in every
part of the city. After four days, some foreign teams arrived
with sophisticated equipment and they were able to bring out three
alive from the rubble.
There were very bodies recovered from here. They are all here
under these, Akram pointed out to all the different department
buildings who were now on the ground.
We went up to the grassy ground of the college where a temporary
tent hospital has started working. We met the army brigadier in
charge of this site. Mr. Saeed asked our opinion of the city.
We told him of our feelings. He told us that General Musharaf
was here today this morning and has spoken of the rebuilding of
the city. But what can be done? Not much, he replied to himself.
He said the foreign teams of doctors and specialist for bringing
the trapped one out have helped but for two three days. They can
not stay in this stinking city, no one can stay here more than
few days in any case, Mr. Saeed told us. They go back soon and
we have to rely on our own
resources, he said After visiting the injured one who have a lot
to tell us about the way they were treated. One said where is
the government? it was no where for few days. We were left to
see our injured one dies. I was the lucky to survive.
While coming out of this tent hospital, where there were a lot
of medicines but all in the open mostly ruined by the previous
day heavy rain, we were stopped by another local who told what
has happened to his family, He is the lone survivor from his family
of eight. We asked him about the politicians of Kashmir, he said
they are all media politicians. We see them over the tv and not
here. How many would have died, we asked him. Over 60,000 in this
city, I guess, he told us. Government is lying about the facts
of the dead ones.
We asked him where are children and women of the city. He said
that most they are dead; the few survivors have left the city.
How they can live here? Most of the dead are women and children.
There was no electricity in Bagh even after 10 days. But there
were some telephon lines set up by the military where you could
call free of cost. All of us had cried several times during this
short visit of few hours to this dying city. Nothing is alive
in the city. While coming to Bagh from Rawalkot, we stoped to
go the house of Nazir Shah, a leader of health workers in Kashmir
who died at his hospital during this earthquake. Nazirhas known
to me for several years, he has visited us in Lahore. His house
not for from the main road was also damaged. His brother, a leader
of the government clerical staff in Kashmir received us at home
and Nazir wife was crying when she saw us. They could not believe
that we will come that for to their house for the condolences.
Earlier we visited Rawalkot, another district badly hit but not
on the scale of Bagh. Rawalkot is around two hours from Bagh by
bus. It was not like Bagh which was based in the valley. But,
a little on the height. So the damage was mainly to the buildings
and not to the human lives on the scale of Bagh. Here a Combined
military hospital, a college and a private hospital had collapsed
with over few thousands dead and many injured.
The relief camp of Jamaat-i-Islami, the main religious fundamentalist
political party was empty but many were at the relief camp of
Pakistan Peoples Party. Here at PPP relief camp, we met several
left activists who had read our weekly paper Mazdoor Jeddojuhd
and knew Labour Party very well. Here a group of women encircled
us pleading for more tents and blanket rather than food.
Before here, we were at Paniola, a small town in Rawalakot district,
where Labour Relief Campaign was sending the food, cloths and
tents during these days. Nisar Shah, a local from this town was
able to come to the town a day after the incident. He flew from
Karachi, where he is a practicing advocate, a family car took
him to Rawalakot and then via taxi to Paniola. "I was first
one to come to the town from outside. Bodies were coming for burial
here from other towns particularly from Bagh. Here, there was
not much physical loss but more to the property and the animals.
Nisar told us. LRC relief truck was the first one to reach here.
So for, eve after ten days no government team has visited this
area for even consolation. He took us down to the vally to visit
some damages. But it was clossal damage. Not a single house was
there without damage.
Every effected person begged us for more tents and blankets.
Every one said that It is only Nisar team who have visited us
regularly and helped us with what ever they have received. One
student from a Muzafarabad university told us that I am the only
survivor from my class. Because, I was not there. All my class
fellows are dead,
We were introduced to a mother of two children who was brave
enough to walk all the way to Bagh by foot on the same day of
the earthquake, to find her one son who was studying in a school.
Luckily, the boy did not go to the school and was playing in the
street at the time. So he survived. She came back to the town
by foot with her son. It took her nearly 10 hour of walking.
Everywhere, we heard, "where is the government"? Most
of the effected area of Kashmir,s 20,000 kilometer is not yet
visited by evn one person from the government of socalled Azad
Kashmir or from the Pakistani military government even after 10
days of the most devastating incident of Pakistan history. It
seems that there are over 100,000 dead and more than that injured.
On the way back, 20 kilometer from Bagh, we stopped for some
food in a small café. Here we met a team of Action Aid
Pakistan. They told us that this is the first hot chapatti in
four days. We are distributing tents and blankets. We were lucky
enough that we had ordered 5000 tents to a Lahore factory on the
first day of the earthquake, they told us.It was mainly help by
ordinary citizens and social organizations that is reaching Kashmir
most areas. We saw dozens of truck load of relief goods coming
We also noticed that every public transport coming out of Kashmir
was full of small belongings of the people. They are fleeing the
area. May be, escaping to safe places in Punjab and other areas.
There is rush of internal migration. It will grow in next few
days as more roads are being open.
We left Bagh at 7pm to reach Lahore at 5 am. Every one was full
of sorrows and also determined to do more what they have done
Please help the victims, contact us what you can do.
Labour Party Pakistan
40-Abbot Road Lahore, Pakistan
Tel: 92 42 6315162 Fax: 92 42 6301685
Mobile: 92 300 8411945, 0321 9402315