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Relief Roadblocks

Editorial Daily Times

For the many earthquake-affected residents of Balochistan, the misery has only just begun. In the immediate aftermath of the quake, one would expect tremendous relief efforts to take place with aid flowing in, human rights organisations taking note and NGOs both local and international entering the disaster-struck province at full speed. However, that does not seem to be the case; the affectees are still without clean drinking water, they do not have a morsel of food to eat and are still sleeping under the stars. The situation is so dire that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has taken notice in New York and has dispatched Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif and Federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar to take serious initiatives and handle relief after the catastrophe. Now C-130s have been inducted to drop supplies, especially in Awaran district where the maximum damage and number of casualties have been recorded.

One can cut the government authorities some slack: the Awaran area and other places where the quake has hit are difficult to reach. The infrastructure is underdeveloped, roads are almost non-existent and telecommunications are less than perfect. However, in addition to all this, there seems to be more to the ineffectiveness than meets the eye. Reports suggest that a helicopter carrying the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) chief has been fired upon. These reports also suggest that militants are behind the attacks. However, eyewitness on-the-ground accounts say that no such thing has happened. If these accounts are to be believed, it seems reports of the attacks are mere excuses to deny access to ‘outsiders’ to the quake-stricken areas. Many of the affected Baloch are stating that government and army authorities are fearful that international NGOs and aid organisations will find out the truth behind the atrocities reportedly committed by the Frontier Corps (FC) against the people of Balochistan. According to reports, a relief goods laden truck convoy reached the area but was first stopped by the FC and only after ‘higher authorities’ intervened, was allowed to proceed to Awaran, where it remains parked at the district coordination officer’s (DCO) office as it was not allowed to reach the people. It was then that the desperate affectees ransacked the trucks to get to the goods. Is this what we have come down to? If these reports of ‘attacks’ are to be believed, the paranoia of our security forces has made it so that even the most needy are considered collateral in their strategic play. No matter what is at stake, a national calamity requires that all people, all institutions and all stakeholders join hands and help those who have lost everything. For the victims of the earthquake, they need this resolve more than anything else. The government alone cannot cope with the emergency. It should seek and obtain the help of local and international welfare and relief organisations to bring help to the suffering affectees. (Courtesy : Daily Times)

Republished in The Balochistan Point on September 28, 2013


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