By Farooq Tariq, general secretary, Labour Party Pakistan
According to the latest official figures, over 53,000 are confirmed death after the 8 October earthquake. Unofficial figures for the death toll are over 100,000 and more seriously injured. Even after so many 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 area close to the “line of control” that separates Kashmir into Indian and Pakistani held areas. Only helicopters are able to reach the area. The military controls all the helicopters. They simply they do not have the helicopters required to bring relief to all the devastated villages.
The “line of control” is closed by the Indian and Pakistani governments and no one from any country can cross it. If the “line of control” had been open, it would have taken a few hours to bring relief from Indian Kashmir. The Pakistani government finally suggested last week to open the Line in five different areas. It has not yet been opened.
Earlier, the Pakistani military government rejected an offer from the Indian government of Indian helicopters for relief purposes. Later the Pakistani military regime offered to accept the Indian helicopters without Indian pilots.
There has been a pathetic aid response by the governments of the advanced countries so far. Not even 5% of the total needed for the relief and rehabilitation work has been pledged or sent to Pakistan.
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 arming itself while totally neglecting the defence of civilians in any disaster like this one.
The Labour Party Pakistan demands the cancellation of the unjust debts of Pakistan. Pakistan owes $34 billion dollars in foreign loans. It pays nearly US $5 billion annually in debt repayments. This is the largest part of the national budget. If the repayment of only year’s 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 social movement internationally should take up the question of the 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.
Abridged from International Viewpoint
• Labour Relief Campaign www.lef.org.pk