victims waits for help outside her devastated home. Below A collapsed
of the Deadly Quake Should Not Become Cash Cows For Usurpers
By Dr. Tarique Niazi
October 11: It is heart-breaking to watch television images of
the death and destruction wrought in Pakistan by an earthquake
the intensity of which beggars parallel in the past 100 years.
Measured 7.6 at the Richter scale, its destructive outcome is
not hard to imagine. Within 24 hours of its strike on October
8, the death toll has already run into thousands.
packed it with even a deadlier punch was its “shallowness,”
i.e., its ground motions were closer to the surface, which pulled
down high-rise structures and mud-house villages with equal ease.
Geologists believe that deeper sub-surface tremors would have
been less lethal and had even less fatal impact on surface objects
and surface life.
in the past, this earthquake’s geological sweep was felt
throughout the length and breadth of Pakistan, and beyond to neighboring
Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and India. Yet the major brunt of it
was borne by northern Pakistan that sits closer to its epicenter.
The worst-hit, thus far, is Pakistan-administered Jammu and Kashmir
where 200 Pakistani soldiers stationed there have also been reported
is still too early to assess the full extent of the devastation,
especially in many parts of northern Pakistan, such as Batagram,
Balakot, Mansehra, Abbotabad, and Pattan. These areas have been
geographically susceptible to earthquakes. In the 1970s, the whole
of Bhisham in Kohistan was razed to rubble, which is Pakistan’s
Alaska. The sun sets on it as early as 3 in the afternoon. Yet
its natural endowment makes it “mark of beauty.” The
late Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto picked up its pieces and
remade it into a crown jewel to behold.
Like Bhisham, many parts of northern
Pakistan are inaccessible or hard to access by land. Road and
rail links fluctuate between “to be and not to be.”
Where there are roads, they stand there as an apology for their
existence. This inaccessibility, especially for the relief and
recovery effort, will cause even more death and destruction than
what is known as of now.
a bigger challenge to rescuers is the “law-and-order”
orientation of the Pakistani State that singularly serves the
ends of its abusive dictators, directing all its resources against
“political crime,” i.e., democratic opposition. As
such State institutions are in the business of savaging, not saving
lives. It is, however, the communitarian resources in extended
families, tribal formations, and inter-tribal alliances, which
provide much-needed succor to those in need.
civil society organization (CSOs) could become a modern agent
of national relief, but their resources are already stretched
to limits in combating “unnatural disasters,” i.e.,
military dictatorship and its economic, political, and social
impact. Some of the private-sector relief groups, such as the
Edhi Welfare Trust, are too urbanized in their relief operations
to work in the trying semi-and-non-urban settings of land-slide-prone
Pakistani-administered Jammu and Kashmir and northern Pakistan.
law-and-order orientation of the State, to the criminal neglect
of mass welfare, has grown manifold on Gen. Musharraf’s
watch, who for the past six years has been squandering the national
resources on buying “legitimacy” for his illegitimate
government. Even just two days before the earthquake struck, he
was busy bullying and bribing voters to elect his nominees to
city halls, town houses, and village councils.
lowest bid for a mayoral seat was 25 million rupees in a country
where the average monthly wages of a full-time worker, who traditionally
provides for a family of five, is 2,500 rupees ($1.38 a day)!
It is these families who will have been buried alive without even
hearing the sound of “help is on the way.” Just in
one town of Pakhtunkhaw, 400 children had died under the collapsed
detritus of their school building.
State resources are committed to keep Gen. Musharraf and his illegitimate
government in power. His power grab costs the nation a whopping
$15 billion a year. Every nickel of which is spent on the dual
task of keeping him in job and safe from the growingly impoverished
masses. As a result, coercion, corruption, and cronyism (CCC)
have come to mark his governance, while the masses languish in
the prison of life. There is little that has been invested in
their welfare over the past six years.
Even Islamabad, where Gen. Musharraf’s
dictatorship seats itself, is not immune from his neglect. A case
in point is the disaster site of the 10-story Margalla Tower,
where volunteers were moving immovable slabs of concrete and jumbles
of mangled steel with their bare hands. CNN and MSNBC have shown
others hammering away at the remains of the building to recover
the entrapped dwellers. Volunteers pulled out “one man by
cutting off his legs,” reported the Associated Press.
This is the work of earth-moving
machines– bulldozers, tractors, cranes. None was in sight,
however. Atop of it all and even in the teeth of this tragedy,
Gen. Musharraf showed up at the site in “full military gear”
of “Chief of Army Staff” for a photo op. He never
passes up an opportunity to insult the stricken nation of Pakistan
by flashing his army uniform as a reminder that it continues to
be shackled by his dictatorship.
His empty-headedness, which only
exceeds his reputation, keeps spilling out of his gunner’s
image, nevertheless. At the disaster site of Margalla Tower, he
could not come up with a single word of sympathy for the victims
or their surviving families. All he said was a gauntlet to the
forces of nature: “…it is a test for all of us…
and we are sure we will qualify this test,” AFP reported
him saying. We will qualify this test? This syntax does not just
represent unfamiliarity with human language, but unmitigated intellectual
Still more empty-headedness was
on display in his reaction to the earthquake, which was however
predictable: Establishment of the “President’s Relief
Fund.” Quick on his heels, his “Prime Minister”
has set up two telephone lines in his secretariat. Is that all?
Where is the institutional help? Relief and recovery effort? Saving
lives from under the fallen structures? Who is going to call you,
moron, when telephone lines in the quake-hit areas have all been
Their actions are, indeed, worse
than their intentions. Tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands,
are still groaning under the damaged buildings and devastated
dwellings. Those who have survived are still uncared for, hungry,
and thirsty. In Abbotabad, which is strewn with military establishments
and which sits only a stone’s throw from where Gen. Musharraf
lives, “hospital staff used loudspeakers to ask people for
food and other relief supplies.” “President’s
Relief Fund” is not the answer to their needs. Instead,
the Fund is a money-making scheme to further fertilize Musharraf
dictatorship. Ben Phillips of Oxfam, on the contrary, has identified
“tents, blankets, food, and medical supplies” as the
immediate needs for the relief effort.
Between Sept. 11, 2001 and Sept.
11, 2003, Gen. Musharraf spun the war on terror into a cold cash
of $20 billion. He should not be allowed to turn the blood of
thousands of earthquake victims into another spigot of cash. First
of all, an honest assessment of needs should be made for immediate
relief supplies. The week from October 8 should be devoted to
just saving, sheltering, feeding, and clothing the survivors.
Can these needs be met locally, regionally, nationally? Should
Pakistan ask friendly nations for help? The answer to all these
questions depends upon a nation-wide needs assessment.
relief aid – both public and private – however should
be offered to private-sector charities such as the Red Cross,
Oxfam, CARE, Edhi Welfare Trust, and Human Rights Commission of
Pakistan (HRCP). In parallel, Pakistan’s political parties
are taking charitable initiatives of their own as part of their
long-held traditions, which deserve all-out support.
Minister Benazir Bhutto and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif have instructed
their respective parties to set up relief operations in affected
areas. As these parties have local roots in the quake-hit areas,
they could be the best delivery mechanism for relief aid, and
they should be preferred for cash donations to the “President’s
a matter of fact, Prime Ministers Bhutto and Sharif have reportedly
asked their party leaders to respectively set up the “PPP
Relief Fund” and the “PML Relief Fund,” both
inside and outside Pakistan, with substantial seed money of their
own. Individual and organizational donors would better serve the
cause of relief by making donations to these funds. In the meanwhile,
my heart goes out to the victims of the devastating earthquake,
and their families.