Socialist Worker

Pakistani flood victims die - but US airbase protected

Issue No. 2215

One statement by a Pakistani cabinet minister yesterday about the floods has revealed the way ordinary people’s lives are being sacrificed for profit and US imperialism.

Giving evidence before one of the country's senate standing committees, health secretary Khushnood Lashari stunned the members of the committee by stating that the airbase at Jacobabad in Sindh province is controlled by US forces and therefore is not available for desperately needed relief work.

'Health relief operations are not possible in the flood-affected areas of Jacobabad because the airbase is with the United States,' he said.

Earlier, Doctor Jahanzeb Aurakzai, coordinator of the Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Centre, said, 'Foreign health teams could not start relief operations in remote areas because there are no airstrips close to several areas, including Jacobabad.'

Jacobabad’s people have been hit by devastating floods. Around 700,000 have been affected. The airbase could have been used to save lives.

The Shahbaz airbase in Jacobabad was leased to the US by former Pakistani president General Pervez Musharraf.

It is used for raids on Afghanistan and to launch drone attacks that have killed hundreds of Pakistanis.

When the floods first struck the authorities deliberately diverted water away form the base, making thousands of people homeless.

The Pakistan army diverted the torrent away from the base to towns in Balochistan including Osata Muhammad, Dera Allahyar, Jaffarabad and Gandawa.

However, continuing rains and divisions in the ruling class mean that water was then allowed to flood Jacobabad (and even to threaten the Shahbaz air base) in order to save the Guddu barrage which is used to irrigate 2.9 million acres of important agricultural areas.

Meanwhile in many areas of Pakistan local landlords have also breached canals and diverted floodwater to populated areas to save their crops.

The system of dams and irrigation that has been greatly to the benefit of the big landlords—but not the small farmer—has now concentrated huge power in the hands of the state and the military.

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Thu 19 Aug 2010, 13:32 BST
Issue No. 2215
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