From the ruins of Awaran: Earthquake relief – a ‘loyalty test’

Survivors sandwiched between govt and rebels in terms of accepting aid.

Survivors sandwiched between govt and rebels in terms of accepting aid. PHOTO: ATHAR KHAN / EXPRESS

To add to the hardship of the Baloch people, the recent massive earthquake is serving as a ‘loyalty test’. In terms of accepting aid and relief, the people are stuck in the middle – they have to choose between the separatist rebels and the government.

The situation is quite sticky. If people accept help from the government, the separatists brand them as ‘traitors’, and vice versa. But some feel they are ‘forced’ to not side with the government.

“You are our guests. We respect and welcome you. We wouldn’t have come out from our shacks if you had come with officials,” said Akhtar, who was a young and angry resident of Sarimalaar, one of the 12 villages in Malar.

“There is no development at all. You will hardly see any schools and hospitals even in the bigger villages. Because we have nothing, people, especially the young men, tend to support the rebels, but only in principle,” explained an elder in Gishkaur.

“I don’t know whether they (the rebels) will be able to ever achieve what they want to but we are sandwiched between them and the government,” another elder intervened.

Meanwhile, others complained of the ‘attitude’ of the security forces, who they alleged “ignore them and mistreat them”.

Many quake survivors are not ready to welcome relief efforts initiated by law-enforcing agencies, alleging that they want to enter into ‘sensitive areas’ instead of helping them.

“We all are being kept in isolation. Is it the way to behave with your own citizens,” a frustrated and angry Ahmed asked. He also lives in Awaran tehsil. “The government is deliberately giving Awaran a bad image to keep visitors at bay because when outsiders visit, they will be able to see how shockingly backward and deprived the province is.”

“I see everyone has arrived here, including the chief minister,” Bilal Ahmed, a youngster commented, chuckling. “They should have come earlier and distributed relief good. They have lost our support now. It is too late,” he said.

Government officials claim that they are afraid to go in the ‘no-go areas’ of Awaran because of the militancy and security situation.

“But the media teams and donors, international or national, are welcome and they are not afraid,” said villagers.

“Flags of BLF have been removed from most areas. The deployment (of FC men) is everywhere and Awaran will no longer be a stronghold of rebels in coming days,” commented a local working for an NGO.

Before the earthquake, Awaran was just known to the media and other organisations as a disturbed area for being the centre of Baloch militancy. But the earthquake has revealed how the area has been ignored for years.

An official of the Balochistan government, on the condition of anonymity, told The Express Tribune that no official has bothered to perform his duties even before the earthquake when the situation was normal.

Another resident of Awaran tehsil said, “When the district commissioner is not in his office, which is most of the time, even the National Bank of Pakistan is closed in the area. How do you expect a town to function then?”

‘Army will continue efforts’

The army said that the security forces will continue relief work in the earthquake-stricken areas despite security hazards and unabated attacks by miscreants.

“During the last week, miscreants have targeted troops, security forces convoys and even helicopters busy in relief works,” said Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (DG ISPR) Maj Gen Asim Salim Bajwa in a statement issued on Friday.

Condemning the attacks, he said, “All efforts will be utilised to provide relief to our brethren in distress.”

Giving details of relief work, he said that over 2,000 troops, 14 helicopters and two C-130 aircraft of PAF are participating in relief work in Awaran.

He said 134 sorties of helicopters have flown till date to the affected areas for transporting relief items and evacuating the injured persons. So far, 962 tons of ration has been distributed.

He added that 811 tons of relief goods are on the way from Karachi and Quetta via Bela and Khuzdar. 

Published in The Express Tribune, October 5th, 2013.


A Balouchi | 9 years ago | Reply

@Siraj Baluch No body said anything about corporate culture. Work ethics necessarily has nothing to do with corporate culture. Only a working man knows that. Again the question arises about who will give them jobs by Mr.Siraj. As pointed out earlier, the money given to sardars since 1947, was for that purpose, to build infrastructure/roads /develop mines or attract investment. But as Mr. Ali pointed out that that money was distributed as alms from the mighty sardar, as if that money was his pocket money. Good riddence to akbar bugti. And on work ethics, Pashtun population is on the rise in baluchistan. One can clearly see the difference of work attitude between pashtuns and local baluch. I am calling spade a spade, and not abusing anybody. In a nutshell the attitude of baluch population must change and interestingly, it is , Alhamdulilah. It will take a lot of time, maybe 2 generations. Again to our leaders, donot give alms, create jobs.

Shahbaz | 9 years ago | Reply

Nawab Bugti is dead since 2007 ,7 years are passed but I have not seen any rapid development in Dera Bugti, 4 gas fields are located in this district(approximately 40 percentg natural gas needs of Pakistan are being fulfilled through these gas fields).Even the situation is more worse than before the so called Corporate social responsibility budgets (CSR) of yearly millions of rupees of operating companies in Dera Bugti can be seen only in papers but in reality there is no major change.The qualified people of Dera Bugt are not getting jobs in these companies,Nawab Bugti was at least pressurizing these companies to recruit local people.

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