Socialist Worker

Nato and Pakistani army fail to give earthquake aid

The South Asian earthquake devastated large areas and killed tens of thousands of people last weekend. Murtaza Ali is a journalist based in London. He is from the Bagh district in Pakistani-controlled Kashmir, one of the worst affected regions.

Issue No. 1972

In my village, Sir Sayebaan, there are dead bodies lying in the street 48 hours after the earthquake hit. There is no one to pick them up.

There are thousands trapped inside school buildings and apartments, under the debris.

There is no one to take out the dead bodies or see if there are any survivors. One of my sisters has lost a son, another a daughter. My family home has been destroyed.

One of my cousins has lost his three children. In my village, just one of the hundreds of villages in the district, there are reports of 75 deaths, most of them school children and the elderly.

In the Degree College in Bagh District, which had over 300 boys inside, those who might have survived were left buried in the rubble. In the girls’ college, all the girls attending classes died. One of my female cousins died there.

Dozens of schools in my district have been destroyed. Some 95 percent of housing and other buildings are gone. Why did state-built schools collapse like that? They should have been built to proper standards.

Pakistani-occupied Kashmir was the area worst hit by the earthquake. I spoke to one high ranking official involved in the rescue effort who says the number killed could be 40,000-50,000 in Bagh province.

Almost everyone from the expatriate community in Britain has lost relatives. One practising barrister in London flew to Bagh yesterday to be by his sister’s side. She has lost her three children, aged 21, 15 and nine.

Others are trying to get to Kashmir. People there have nowhere to go, nowhere to sleep and getting food is a big problem.

The Pakistani army has occupied this area for years and has looted all the resources. It could have moved in swiftly to help. Instead it is nowhere in sight.

President Musharraf is using the effort ordinary people are making to help as one big photo opportunity, getting in the way as he poses for the cameras.

He claims the government and military need time, but two days have gone by with no sign of help in my village and the surrounding area.

The response of the Musharraf regime is shambolic and insensitive. Ministers are going on TV telling people to calm down as if nothing has happened.

This is to the shame of the military regime. The Pakistani military have control of all the country’s resources. They have failed us.

The US and Nato forces in Afghanistan are only sending four or five helicopters to help. They are in the region to control the resources.

The death toll surpasses the numbers killed in New Orleans and in Bali.

It is not the governments but the people who have the compassion to help.

We need people in Britain to help in any way they can but also to highlight what has happened and why.

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Article information

Sat 15 Oct 2005, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1972
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