Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/411/4668
Rising anger at Musharraf's regime
Socialists killed in Kalam
On Monday 10 October the socialist spoke to Khalid Bhatti from the Socialist Movement Pakistan (SMP, the counterpart of the Socialist Party), in Lahore, before he set off to visit the earthquake-affected areas with relief supplies.
Khalid has heard a report telling the tragic news that six members of the SMP from Kalam in Swat province have been killed and that another six or seven members are unaccounted for.
The devastation in Kashmir is worse than the original government reports. In just one district of Kashmir some 30,000 people are feared dead. Bagh is completely destroyed. It's all rubble. Our comrades from Kotli in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir have helped organise three medical teams to the affected areas today (Monday).
In Rawalkot it's a similar situation with 95% of buildings destroyed. I spoke to Sardar Khalid Mehmood, the president of the paramedics union in Rawalkot. He told me: 'I am the only survivor in the hospital staff colony. I never saw such devastation in my whole life. We are without food, medicines, water and electricity. We desperately need medicines, warm clothes and tents. Please help us otherwise we all will die....'
Balakot in North West Frontier Province - an historic city - is completely wiped out with 700 children buried in their schools.
Many school buildings in the affected areas were poorly maintained and this has contributed to the destruction.
Northern areas of Pakistan and the tribal areas have also been badly affected but no-one really knows the scale of the deaths and destruction. It's possible that the death toll could reach 60,000-70,000.
A leading member on our central committee, Azad Qadri, who is also the national secretary of the Trade Union Rights Campaign, has heard that many of his family have been killed.
THE RESCUE operation is moving very slowly. The military are saying that they have not reached 40% of the affected areas (after 36 hours). However, reports from our own party members and families say that about 60% of the areas have not yet been reached.
Survivors are left in the open, facing hailstorms. In the mountainous regions the temperature is dropping. There are very seriously ill children and elderly people who are likely to die because they are not getting any medical treatment.
The problem is that the roads have been blocked from landslides. The military has cleared one road but only for light vehicles not for heavy trucks. The only effective means to transport relief supplies is by helicopter and there are insufficient armed forces helicopters to reach all the affected areas of Kashmir.
The government has issued an appeal for more helicopters. The US has agreed to send eight but they have hundreds of helicopters in Afghanistan, some of them heavy lift types, just one hour's flight away.
The government is well aware that people's anger is rising. Spokespersons for the Musharraf regime have continually said on the media that this is a national emergency in which national unity should be to the forefront and there should be no criticism of the government.
Despite the claims of government ministers, the rescue operation has hardly begun - local communities have been forced to fend for themselves. It is clear that capitalism and feudalism has made this disaster far worse.
Civic agencies like civil defence and the fire service have hardly been able to intervene because they hardly exist - again because of lack of funding. The health service has been completely overwhelmed because of lack of doctors and hospitals. The injured in different parts of the region are being operated on in courtyards and in some cases on the streets, because the clinics and hospitals are full. And that is for those who are lucky enough to get there!
In Pakistan, 45% (US $3.5 billion) of the budget goes on defence. And yet only 1.7% is spent on health! The difference between these two figures will cause casualties in a situation like this to be much higher.
People here are shocked and angered by the lack of response from the US and British governments [Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, pledged a paltry £100,000 and only 60 emergency/support staff, now upped to a mere £1 million].
Ordinary working-class people have responded by donating what little they have to the injured. The SMP is campaigning in the working class areas for relief. Although people are very poor they are donating sweaters and clothing even though they know they cannot replace these items.
Just a few moments ago while I was talking to you a young girl came and donated a box of matches - all that she could afford.
But as far as the ruling elite is concerned their response is very slow. In the posh areas of Lahore there are no collections taking place.
Medical supplies are short but multinational and local pharmaceutical manufacturers are not donating enough.
Elect local earthquake disaster committees
THE SOCIALIST Movement Pakistan (SMP) are demanding that local earthquake disaster committees be elected to direct the rescue and rebuilding operation. They are campaigning for:
- A full rescue operation using all the resources of the airforce and navy, including the setting up of field hospitals, provision for free temporary accommodation, and food kitchens.
- Distribution of tents, food, medical aid, financial grants, drinking water to be under the control of local earthquake disaster committees.
- Assessment of damage to local communities to be carried out by representatives of the committees and not government officials as in previous disasters. For full compensation equal to the cost of rebuilding for all of those who have lost accommodation.
- Rent and property price controls to be implemented immediately.
- A cap on the price of cement, bricks and all other building material to be implemented immediately.
- The renationalisation of all companies concerned with building and repair.
- A massive increase in public spending to improve infrastructure.
In The Socialist 13 October 2005: