With Love from Pakistan

There has been no mass appeal to help the Baloch in their time of need. Can we write it off as donor fatigue?

Kamal Siddiqi October 06, 2013
The writer is Editor of The Express Tribune

When people arrive from other parts of the country, locals refer to them as “guests from Pakistan.” They look at them with disdain, say journalists who have visited these areas. There is anger, grief, frustration and helplessness amongst the earthquake-affected people of Awaran and its environs. It has been almost two weeks since the devastating earthquake struck this areas killing hundreds but most of those affected continue to live under the open skies. We have done little to help.

Even before the earthquake, things were bad. Visitors from out of Balochistan are struck by the dismal living conditions in these remote areas of the province. This is where the state has failed the people of Balochistan. There is no running water, power, sewage, health facilities or schools. People are left to fend on their own.

But this has not moved the government or the politicians. As thousands of people fight to rebuild their lives, lawmakers of the province squabble over how much they want to be compensated monetarily to be part of a provincial government that still has not been formed.

In Balochistan, there is a chief minister and no cabinet. Possibly this is still a better arrangement. In the past, ministers have siphoned away billions of rupees meant for development schemes and improving social indicators of the province. There has been no accountability. The provincial government has been unable to come to the aid of the people of the affected areas, leaving the army to shoulder the burden.

But even more tragic is the response of the people of Pakistan and civil society. There has been no mass appeal to help the Baloch in their time of need. If compared to instances in the past, we have done more for the people of Bosnia and other far away places, let alone the earthquake in Kashmir and the northern parts of the country. Can we simply write it off as donor fatigue?

Why should we make an international appeal for help when our own are not willing to come to the aid of their fellow Pakistanis. The bad news does not end there. The few organizations that have taken convoys have been stopped by the FC on grounds of security risk.

The role of the FC in Balochistan needs to be examined and discussed. What is the logic of stationing forces comprising people of one ethnic group in a province that has a history of animosity between this group and the Baloch? The Baloch say that they would rather not accept help than to accept it from the FC. It is thanks to the efforts of the military assistance that has come through.

The sub-human conditions in which the Baloch live in rural areas is nothing new. They can be compared to those who fled from rural areas of Sindh after the floods there. Most of the flood refugees never went back and many drive Qinqi rickshaws in Karachi and Hyderabad, much happier now with their economic independence. But how long can the bigger cities bear this burden. Disaster has become a business. Despite the setting up of the grandly named NDMA, the authority is almost never ready when nature strikes. In the case of Balochistan we are told that NDMA did not even have a functional office in the province. In contrast, private entrepreneurs sprung up in many cities all over Pakistan with their tents and their collection boxes to collect aid on behalf of the victims. Much of this never gets to the people it is intended for.

To help the Baloch in their time of need would have helped improve things in this strife-ridden province politically. But this has not happened. Militants now have the upper hand as help has not arrived. The only ones who managed to come to the rescue of the people, and that too intermittently, were our religious outfits.

Whatever happened to the Aghaz-e-Huqooq Balochistan package? Yes, jobs were advertised but in most instances not followed up. Many were given false promises. This has only added fuel to the fire.

It is not just the army that needs to help Balochistan. There must be more public involvement. There must be pressure to open the roads so that people who need help get it. And to show that the rest of Pakistan cares. And this should happen soon.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 7th, 2013.

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Tribune Reader | 8 years ago | Reply

Oh look another self hating Pakistani.

Abbas | 8 years ago | Reply

The news that militants attacked NGOs is purely a rumour. infact I've personally heard from NGOs personnel that they were welcomed and treated well by locals and they didn't find any Baloch militant but Military I.e. FC and almost 6 checkpost in 40 kilometers. Volunteers with trucks loaded were stopped by FC and were asked to submit the goods and medicines to FC camp and locals have clearly rejected any kind of help from FC or army as they say that the mutilated bodies of their loved ones cannot allow us to take their help no matter how bad our situation gets.

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