By Farooq Sulehria
It took few minutes and in these few minutes tragedy’ ridden
land of Kashmir embraced yet another tragedy on the morning of
October 8. An earthquake with a magnitude of 7.6 on the Richter
scale hit the occupied state of Jammu Kashmir at 8.45am on Saturday
and neighbouring Pakistan, Afghanistan, India and China. At the
time of filing this report, the quake toll is put at 40, 000 counting.
Another 50 thousand are reported injured while millions have been
While media have been concentrating on Islamabad, particularly
collapsed Margalla Towers, the journalists have yet to reach the
worst hit region: Pakistani Occupied Kashmir (POK). Muzaffarabad,
POK capital, has been reduced to rubble. Both roads leading to
Muzaffarabad have been closed owing to land sliding. Reaching
Bagh, another calamity hit district, is not easy even under normal
circumstances owing to bad road links, is out-of-access at the
moment. Nisar Shah, chairperson of Labour Party Pakistan, hails
from Bagh. Himself living in port city of Karachi, Nisar has his
family living in a Bagh village. He managed to reach Bagh adventurously
This is what he reports from Bagh: ‘In Bagh, almost ninety
percent of the houses are no more. Many bodies are unattended.
There are no relief efforts seen by any government agencies even
after 48 hours of the most disastrous earth quack in the history
of Pakistan. I have seen girl’s colleges where it is estimated
that over 200 students’ bodies are still in rubble. There
is no electricity in the whole area. People are outside their
houses and are in very bad situation. There are several hotels
in Bagh where their guests are still under the collapsed buildings.
There are dead bodies every where and bad smell is coming out.
Many bodies unburied.
No medical facilities. People are very much depressed. The where
about of many are not known’.
There is no aid reaching so for till this morning. Government
can not be seen any where. It is a total disaster. It is the worst
I have ever seen.
I personally have lost many relatives including my first cousins
and husband of my sister’.
Even when people in Pakistan are generously donating to relief
efforts, it is not certain if relief will reach in time, if at
all. It is because access to 500 villages wiped from the face
of earth is not possible without helicopters. While telephone
system gone dysfunctional in Kashmir and roads blocked, Pakistani
Occupied Kashmir is virtually cut off from rest of the world.
Many would be wondering why authorities are insisting only on
helicopters. Why not planes? Simply because POK has no airport
despite a million Kashmiris, out of its 3.5 million population,
live abroad. This utter lack of infrastructure has enhanced the
enormity of the catastrophe that shook POK on the morning of October
This criminal neglect of POK does not owe to economic deprivation.
It has been a policy followed by the Pakistani ruling class to
keep Kashmir undeveloped. Keeping Kashmir poor is as systematic
as poverty for Black Americans is woven into the texture of US
True, the government of Pakistan could not evacuate the people
of Kashmir since earthquakes hit unlike hurricanes. But certain
similarities between Kashmir and New Orleans are striking. While
black population of New Orleans was given damn for decades on
racial basis, quake victims in Kashmir have been victims of Pakistan’s
colonial policies inflicted upon Kashmir. Human rights and development
perhaps go hand in hand. Grave contempt for human rights in Kashmir,
particularly in Gilgat Baltistan, a region cleverly detached from
Kashmir by Pakistan in case Kashmir goes independent, is evident
by the grave neglect of infra structure in Kashmir.
Another suitable comparison is Aceh ‘province’ of
Indonesia. Having lost over 20 thousand in a liberation war against
Indonesia, Aceh was the biggest target for tsunami. Kashmir, in
its Indian occupied part, lost 80, 000 lives in a liberation war
that began 1988. Now ‘Mountain tsunami’ flattens capital
of its Pakistani occupied part besides 500 villages. A tragedy
Meantime, fundamentalist leaders and right wing columnists are
busy hurling nauseating statements, describing the earthquake
as a punishment for sinful folks and advising to seek God’s
forgiveness. While MMA (alliance of major fundamentalist parties,
ruling NWFP province) leadership has pinpointed the unIslamic
way of Pakistanis and media obscenity, widely read right wing
columnist Hamid Mir (Daily Jang, Oct 10) makes fun of those ‘secular
fundamentalists’ who refuse to attribute natural catastrophes
to God’s wrath. Only few days ago BBC reported that God
asked Bush to invade Afghanistan and Iraq. God must be crazy!