By Farooq Tariq
Even after 17 days of the most disastrous earthquake in Pakistan,
there are areas that no one has yet reached to help the victims.
That is mainly true of the Neelum Valley area, close to the so-called
Line Of Control that separates Kashmir into Indian and Pakistani
held areas. Only helicopters are able to reach the area. The military
is the only institution that controls all the helicopters. They
simply they do not have the helicopters required to bring relief
to all the devastated villages.
A two-member team from one private TV channel GEO accompanying
a military relief helicopter in the Neelum Valley showed a glimpse
of the plight of the villagers last night on 25th October 2005.
The villagers were begging, arguing, fighting, accusing and saying
what ever they could say to the military officers to get some
immediate relief to save the lives of their children who are not
yet dead. One villager said, 17 days gone, we have no team
reaching to our village. We have buried 80 from our village, many
more are injured, but no help yet has reached the village.
Money collected at the Labour Relief Camp in Lahore, Pakistan....
The so-called LOC is closed by the Indian and Pakistani governments
and no one from any country can cross the Line. If the LOC had
been open, it would have taken few hours for the Indian held Kashmir
people to bring relief. The Pakistani government finally suggested
last week to open the Line from 5 different areas. But technical
side had to be discussed by the Indian government to agree to
the proposal. It has not yet been opened.
Earlier, the Pakistani military government rejected an offer
from the Indian government of Indian helicopters for relief purposes.
It was not in our national interest to accept this offer,
it raises the question of the security of the country said
one Pakistani spokesperson while rejecting the offer. Later the
Pakistani military regime offered to accept the Indian helicopters
without Indian pilots. What more security is in the mind of the
Pakistani government while, according to the latest official figures,
over 53,000 are confirmed death after the 8th October earthquake.
Unofficial figures for the death toll are over 100,000 and more
There has been a pathetic aid response by the governments of
the advanced countries so far. Not even five percent of the total
needed for the relief and rehabilitation work has been pledged
or sent to Pakistan. The friends of general Musharaf
have not been pushed properly by the military government to donate
and come forward to help in this grave situation. The reason is
The military governments earlier response was to hide the
facts. They tried in the initial period to show minimum losses
of lives and property. I heard the core commander of the North
West Frontier Province, the real boss of the province, on 9th
October, a day after the earthquake it is the politicians
who are making noise about deaths and losses, I have been touring
around the whole day, the maximum deaths are less than one thousand
This is a province where there are more than 20,000 confirmed
deaths according to the official figures.
OXFAM UK issued a serious warning on 26th October that Pakistan
has been abandoned by the industrial states. It noted that America,
Japan, Germany and Italy have donated aid that does not match
their financial position. While France, Belgium, Austria and Finland
have announced no donations at all.
The United Nation asked for 300 million dollars in emergency
relief but only one third of that has materialized. The UN economic
coordinator for immediate relief in Pakistan, Mr. Rashid Kalkof,
told news reporters in Islamabad on 23rd October that we
did not expect the disaster on that high level. It went beyond
our imaginations. That is why there was a delay in the initial
relief activities. He said, according to our initial
estimation, over three million people have suffered from this
On 22nd October, the prime minister of Azad Kashmir, (Pakistani-occupied
Kashmir) said, do not wait for the death of the Kashmiris,
send the helicopters now. The world community should not talk
but act. The whole world has not been able to send the immediate
required 200,000 tents yet, what is the use of helicopters when
Kashmiris are dead. The desperation of the hand-picked prime
minister of Azad Kashmir shows the real danger that is erupting
to the lives of the refugees who are desperate to get the tents
before the arrival of the winter in three weeks times. Already
in some areas, snow is pouring down and other areas, the temperature
is around zero.
At present, there a total of 46 helicopters helping in the relief
efforts, some 30 of them are from the US army. According to a
BBC report on 23rd October, half of the helicopters are involved
in VIP activities. That mean transportation of the very important
personalities or security of these VIPs.
Even General Musharaf had to admit on 21st October that only
620 million dollars has been pledged which is very little. According
to the government surveys, the total damage may exceed five billion
dollars. The independent surveys bring the total damage to 10
The World Food Programme appeal for 56 million dollars has met
with only 10 per cent success so far. It has been issuing serious
warning of more deaths if the international response to this disaster
is not in accordance with the needs of the time.
Militarization of the relief efforts
All the action of the Musharaf regime shows the growing militarization
of the relief efforts. The military want to control all the incoming
aid and want to distribute it without the involvement of the civilians.
A major general Farooq Ahmed has been appointed as the relief
commissioner. Another general has been appointed for the rehabilitation
work. Civilians seem totally outside the network of the official
channels of relief and rehabilitation work.
The total incapacity of the military regime to provide any effective
help in the first three days of the earthquake has now been compensated
by the mainstream medias publicity for the army as the only
saviour. Even the main private TV channels are promoting the army
relief efforts as the only way forward. During the six years of
military rule, most civilian institutions have been headed by
retired or serving army officers. Now the relief and rehabilitation
work has joined the same route.
The earthquake has raised the issues like occupation of Kashmir
by Pakistan and India and its effect on the people. It has raised
the issue of the priorities of the Pakistani state, which has
been too busy iarming itself while totally neglecting the defence
of civilians in any disaster like this one.
The natural disaster has not been met with the preparations that
were needed. The total loss would have been reduced to a large
extent if the state had been prepared for such incidents. But
the social priorities of the people are the last words in the
dictionary of the ruling classes of Pakistan.
Cancellation of the debts campaign
The national assembly of Pakistan has passed a resolution that
the debts of the people in the affected area should be cancelled.
So was the demand of the members of the NWFP assembly. This is
related to the demand of Labour Party Pakistan to cancel the unjust
debts of Pakistan. Pakistan owes 34 billion dollars in foreign
loans. It pays nearly 5 billion US dollars annually in debt repayments.
This is the largest part of the national budget. If the repayment
of only years debt were not paid, it could compensate for
the total damage according to the official figures. The irony
of the matter is that IMF has announced, not an aid, but a loan
on soft terms basis even on this tragic occasion for Pakistan.
The peoples response
There has been unprecedented peoples response not only
in Pakistan but internationally, particularly in those countries
which have a large Pakistani immigrant population. According to
one survey, over 10 billion rupees (200 million US dollars) donations
have been sent to the affected areas by the people of Pakistan.
The Labour Relief Campaign in its first four days of campaigning
in Lahore raised over 250000 Rupees in cash and over 2 million
Rupees worth of goods from ordinary passers-by. This has been
the case of many more relief camps which emerged in every party
of Pakistan. There have been the cases all over Kashmir and NWFP
affect areas where the first aid came from the people and not
from the state.
What is to be done?
The social movement internationally should take the question
of earthquake on an urgent basis. It should urge the governments
in the advanced countries to do more than they have done so far.
It has to take the question to the labour movement and to help
the Kashmiri and Pakistani workers and peasants who have lost
every thing. The response has to come on urgent basis. More effective
measures have to be taken to collect funds for the refugees not
only for immediate relief but also for rehabilitation work.
Please visit Labour Education Foundation website for more details
of Labour Relief Campaign www.lef.org.pk
Donations can be sent to the Labour Education Foundation appeal
in two ways:
To Pakistan, but which might be very costly:
LABOUR EDUCATION FOUNDATION
A/C No. 01801876
BANK ALFALAH LTD., LDA PLAZA, KASHMIR ROAD, LAHORE, PAKISTAN
Please advise and pay to Citi Bank, New York, USA Swift CITI
for onward transfer to BANK ALFALAH LTD., KARACHI, PAKISTAN A/C
and for final transfer to BANK ALFALAH LTD., LDA PLAZA, KASHMIR
ROAD, LAHORE, PAKISTAN
Swift: ALFHPKKALDA for A/C No. 01801876 OF LABOUR EDUCATION FOUNDATION
Or through a Paris-based NGO, the ESSF, which is centralising
the transfer of funds:
Agence de la Croix-de-Chavaux (00525)
10 boulevard de Chanzy
International bank account details :
IBAN : FR85 3000 2005 0044 5757 C12
BIC / SWIFT : CRLYFRPP
Account holder : ESSF