What Ails Pakistan Railways

Striking railway workers (Courtesy Kamran Razi)

Oct 17, 2011 (9:49 PM) In Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: With train operations coming to a halt across the country on Monday, a high level meeting was summoned to find a way out of the deepening crisis that has pushed Pakistan Railways (PR) to the brink.

But the outcome of the meeting, summoned by President Asif Ali Zardari, was far from definite – with the president directing that funds for the payment of salaries and pensions of protesting workers be arranged for in 7 days.

On the other hand, the government once again asked PR to approach banks for a Rs6 billion loan to cater to burgeoning infrastructural costs – funds that the president ordered be injected solely into a dilapidated and fast deteriorating system.

Finance ministry refuses to pay

Earlier this year, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani approved Rs11.5 billion as a bailout package for Pakistan Railways. Of this amount, around Rs5 billion was to be paid by the federal government as cost for rehabilitation projects, while PR was asked to arrange the remaining amount through commercial banks.

However, the finance ministry refused to grant Rs5 billion saying it could not provide further subsidies to Pakistan Railways seeing as it is already suffering huge losses.

President Zardari has asked the government to release funds within seven days for the payment of salaries and pensions of protesting railway employees, a press statement issued after the meeting stated.

Role of the private sector

Presidential spokesperson President Farhatullah Babar said that private sector entrepreneurs were also invited to the meeting to discuss a public-private partnership model for revamping railways.

Chairman Arif Habib Group of Companies Arif Habib and Chairman ARD Group of Companies Aqeel Karim Dhedi were specially invited to give their input on the role the private sector could play in turning around the state-run rail sector, Babar added.

Revamping railways

“The president also advised the government to arrange a loan of Rs6 billion for locomotive repairs and purchases of new locomotives. The loan will be used exclusively for this purpose and will not be diverted for any other purpose,” he said.

The spokesperson further said that another decision was taken during the meeting which pertained to the over Rs40 billion outstanding overdraft obtained from the State Bank by Pakistan Railways, for which it has been paying an amount of Rs350 million per month.

(Read: Railways eye bailout funds by August)

The president advised that this matter be taken up with the Council of Common Interests as PR services were utilised by all provinces and the issue was inter-provincial in nature.

Railways Minister Haji Ghulam Ahmed Bilour informed the meeting that half of the total locomotives were out of order, 86 per cent of bridges are more than 100 years old, the signaling system is obsolete, the telecommunication system is outdated and the track is over-aged.

Protests in Sindh

Rail traffic between Sindh and Punjab remained suspended due to protests by staff at the railway track near Loco Shed Rohri on Monday.

Hundreds of railway employees, under the aegis of the Loco Running Staff Train Drivers Association led by General Secretary Ali Haider Chachar, staged a protest demonstration against the non-payment of salaries.

Protesting employees staged a sit-in on the railway track, making it impossible for trains to get out of the shed.

“Our protest and sit-in will continue till the disbursement of salaries,” Chachar told The Express Tribune.

Protests in Lahore

Locomotive shed workers of Lahore observed a strike in the diesel loco shed for almost 11 hours on Monday. Hundreds of workers of Rail Mazdoor Ittehad (RMI) started their protest early Monday morning against the non-payment of salaries.

The employees threatened to resume the protest early Tuesday morning and would continue till they were paid.


Published in The Express Tribune, October 18th, 2011.
Article taken from The Express Tribune – http://tribune.com.pk
URL to article: http://tribune.com.pk/story/276029/pakistan-railways-employees-end-protest-after-assurances-by-authorities/


Saving the Mohenjodaro Ruins from Ruination

The ruins of Mohenjo-Daro in the Sindh province of Pakistan. (Credit: memo.fr)

19th October 2011:

The preservation of Moenjodaro was discussed at a conference held in Karachi on Saturday in which archaeological experts, top Sindh government officials and Unesco representatives participated. While the provincial government allocated Rs100m to help conserve the 5,000-year-old Indus Valley Civilisation and World Heritage site, experts in their desperation suggested burial of the ruins until such time that technology became available to control the rising water table and salt levels in the

Mohenjo daro The Great Bath (brittanica.com)

soil that threaten the prehistoric site. International experts have reportedly been struggling for years to conserve Moenjodaro, in the process experimenting with various techniques that just do not seem to give the desired results. This is extremely worrisome.

It is clear that Pakistan alone cannot foot the bill for the conservation of the prehistoric city; funds coming from Unesco, too, have not enabled the experts to come up

Aerial View of Mohenjo Daro (Credit home.hiwaay.net)

with a formula to do the needful. The money and manpower, including experts working on the conservation project, are deemed to be inadequate by all accounts. There is thus an urgent need to create more awareness about the site that is no less important to human civilisation than the ancient relics of the Egyptian and Mesopotamian cultures. The need is to create a global fund and a pool of competent conservation research experts to explore the challenge at hand and to devise a custom-made solution that will work. It would be a shame having to rebury the unearthed parts of Moenjodaro in the very same soil whose rising water table and salt levels are threatening it. A global appeal needs to be launched by Pakistan with the backing of Unesco to further the debate on preserving Moenjodaro.

Mohenjodaro Walled City (harappa.com)

Granted, the time to do this should have been years ago, but the urgency of the matter demands it had better be done today.


Report on Religious Minorities in Pakistan

The National Commission for Peace and Justice has issued a report on the Religious Minorities in Pakistan in August 2011 which describes how Pakistan, Afghanistan, Egypt, Iran, Indonesia, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria are among the countries that have anti-blasphemy laws. In Pakistan, they note that under Zia ul Haq’s blasphemy laws, the penalty includes a mandatory death sentence for defaming the Prophet Mohammad and life sentence for desecrating the Holy Quran. Under the provisions of the present law, conviction is made possible without proof of deliberate attempt on the part of the accused. This the NCPJ states is a violation of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution of Pakistan.

For the full NCPJ report, please click on the link to download the it: Human Rights Monitor 2011.

Why are Pakistan’s ‘moderate’ clerics defending Salman Taseer’s murderer

Photo Credit: Arif Ali

He was only 18 years old at the time he was hanged for blasphemy. The accusations against him included allegations that he had made statements that mocked the “holy scriptures” and all “revealed religion”. He was also said to have described theology as “a rhapsody of feigned and ill-invented nonsense”.

Photo Credit: Arif Ali

The man in question wasn’t another Pakistani being victimised by the country’s infamous blasphemy laws. Thomas Aikenhead was a Scottish medical student living in Edinburgh who left his mark on history as the last person to be hanged in Britain for blasphemy, in 1697. In his indictment he was, in fact, accused of having “preferred Mahomet to the blessed Jesus”. However, when he was taken to the gallows Aikenhead was said to have held a Bible in his hands and denied the claims made against him.

What is of interest about the incident is its timing: it took place at the dawn of the Scottish Enlightenment.

Photo Credit: Arif Ali

In that respect, Aikenhead’s punishment was telling of the urgent need for change in a society that had been mired in superstition and intolerance. Fast-forward to the modern age and parts of Pakistan find themselves living, some would say being dragged back, into the dark ages. Protests by religious fundamentalists have been taking place all over the country against the recent court decision to hang Mumtaz Qadri, the murderer of the liberal Punjab governor Salman Taseer. Now there comes news a Pakistani court has suspended the death sentence, pending an appeal made by Qadri against his conviction.

Photo Credit: Arif Ali

While Pakistan may not be at the cusp of some kind of enlightenment, it is a society being overwhelmed by the changes brought by modernity. At the same time the country finds itself being pulled in the opposite direction by strong regressive forces.

The furore over the blasphemy laws is indicative of a larger failing to understand the underlying causes behind the fundamentalist problem. Some of the most vocal street protests by admirers of Qadri have been by a group called the Sunni Tehreek. This is an organisation with roots in the Barelvi school of Islam, which has widespread adherents in the country. The Barelvis have for years been touted in certain western and liberal Pakistani circles as the more moderate answer to Saudi-exported Wahhabi or Salafi versions of Islam. But what one finds is the various Barelvi, Wahhabi, Deobandi and Shia schools of thought actually united in critiquing Taseer over his stance on the blasphemy laws. In fact, the Barelvis perhaps came out more fiercely than others in condemning the death sentence to Qadri. This is due to their supposedly stronger attachment to the Prophet Muhammad.

Photo Credit: Arif Ali

Unfortunately, post-September 11 there has been a taboo in understanding the rise in influence of Wahhabi Islam among Muslims. To imagine Barelvis or “Sufis” as all being peace-loving mystics and “moderates” simply doesn’t hold. Many people have been sucked into the more puritanical Wahhabi Islam as a reaction to superstitions they are led to believe have crept into Islam – such as offering prayers at tombs, celebrating the prophet’s birthday, visits to pirs (faith healers) who exploit people’s blind faith and other practices considered to be “shirk” or idolatry. Tragically, such literalist interpretation has also created an intolerant mentality, which has led to the shocking destruction of graves of many of the prophet’s close companions and family members in Mecca by the Saudis – wiping out irretrievably sites of great historic significance to Islamic culture.

Photo Credit: Arif Ali

The various Barelvi clerics who are protesting against the death sentence for Taseer’s killer are, paradoxically, also the ones to have issued condemnations of Islamist terrorists and Taliban. Their shrines have been attacked by suicide bombers and Pakistan has witnessed prominent Barelvi figures killed in recent times. But the problem is we now have a situation where clerics loosely allied with the west in the “war on terror” are defending a man who has committed open murder.

In June 2009, in an article in Foreign Policy magazine, the writer Ali Eteraz warned of the folly of Washington’s policy of actively supporting one brand of Islam over another. “After years of bemoaning official Saudi sponsorship of Wahhabism, and condemning official Iranian sponsorship of milleniarian Islam, we are now being asked to celebrate a state-sponsored brand of Islam in Pakistan,” he wrote. “We are asked to believe this is ‘different’ from those other cases solely because it’s a version of the religion that looks benign. But not only is this unprincipled – it is going to backfire, leaving Sufism discredited and more religious resentment among the numerous peaceful Salafis in the world.” His prediction appears to be coming true.

Using one religious faction to confront another can be a dangerous strategy. For one, it only gives an excuse for more sectarian conflict in a country already rife with enough violence. More significantly, there lies the danger of turning a blind eye to religious groups appearing to be “moderate” who, when the time is ripe, may start to assert their own agenda using street power.

Photo Credit: Arif Ali

Instead, the starting point to confront this menace should be to highlight the selective outrage of the fundamentalists, as the Pakistani actress Veena Malik did earlier this year. Appearing on a TV show, Malik had an all-out confrontation with a mullah who had critiqued her over her appearance in the Indian version of Big Brother. “If you want to do something for the glory of Islam,” she retorted, “you have plenty of opportunities. What are the politicians doing? Bribery, robbery, theft and killing in the name of Islam. There are many things to talk about … There are Islamic clerics who rape the children they teach in their mosques and so much more.”

Sadly there are yet to be massive street rallies over these issues.

Traders Respond to Government’s Energy Saving Measures

The Gillani Cabinet had to designate three Ministers to explain why two off days every week would bring about monumental savings in power consumption. Like always, no industrialist or businessmen will do what the government so desperately desires. Factories would run as usual, markets would be humming with the hustle and bustle, and the economic activity would continue on weekends just like before.

We industrialists are determined to earn foreign exchange for the nation, we are all geared to provide quality employment, and we are dedicated towards our goal of making Pakistan an economic powerhouse.

Meantime, the Cabinet and the Parliamentarians can enjoy their weekend holidays and let us industrialists do what we do best. Keep the wheels of industry running.

Strengthening Participatory Organization (SPO) Update on Sindh Flood

The recent torrential rains have created havoc in Sindh. More than 350 people have lost their lives, 8,8million people have been affected among them 1.36 million are children and 240000 pregnant women facing hardships under open sky.

Now the rains have stopped, the flood water is standing in almost all cities and villages of Sindh. Due to breaches in the left bank outfall Drainage, in the kacha area of Dadu , Nain Gaj ,more than 25ft of water flowed into the area and caused human loss. Live stock and house hold items poverty stricken people also washed away. This is not the first time that the LBOD has severely affected and displaced the population of Badin.

The recent spell of heavy rains and flood has reinforced the losses caused by last year’s devastating floods. People are still struggling with severe problems like shortage food and clean drinking water, unhygienic living conditions, pregnant women have their own health problems and children are facing vector borne diseases. On the other hand, Government’s relief operation is too slow to address their needs. People also complain of political influence while distribution of relief goods.

Following table will help in understanding the level damage in different districts;

Sr # District Affected Taluqa UCs Villages Population Agri Land Houses
01 Badin 5 46 6300 1021000 343000 382000
02 MP Khas 6 41 5700 705000 134000 118000
03 Jamshoroo 4 25 614 8400 5820 75000
04 Benazirabad 4 51 4100 900000 125000 300000
05 Tando AY 3 19 1254 270890 66500 28000
06 Tando MK 3 16 1555 267000 68000 51000
07 Umarkot 4 27 1651 180000 160745 Acers 84474 Fully Damage & 77076 Partially Damage


Sr # District Deaths Livestock Relief Camps Population of Camps
01 Badin 50 60% 500 670,000
02 MP Khas 43 230 147 57269
03 Jamshoroo 15 14 9000 – 1000 local IDPs6000 IDPs from other district.
04 Benazirabad 32 80 Thousand to 1 Lac 625 28630
05 Tando AY
06 Tando MK 15 75 119 11873
07 Umarkot 42 Loses17368Vaccinated 340960

Drenched 9385

Treated 13360

Total Affected


132 238976 IDPs in schools,Tents City, Open Sky & Other Govt Building

For more on the Sindh flood, watch the interview by SPO chief Naseer Memon to Netherlands Web based television ‘The Water Channel

Tenth Anniversary of US Invasion of Afghanistan

As the US marks the tenth anniversary of its invasion of Afghanistan, pro Taliban terror networks – driven out of Kabul in October 2001 – have reinvented themselves inside Pakistan.

They are enabled by an inept foreign policy and absence of governance that allows the most brutal ideologues to consolidate themselves within failing states.

The militants have found the most fertile ground in Balochistan, where the PPP government – operating on a single principle of obeying the most powerful – teeters between toeing a foreign policy that breeds international isolationism, even as it has become a punching bag for political parties vying to return to power.

For the Hazara Shias in Balochistan – protesting against the failure of the provincial government for failing to protect them – the bigger news is the PPP government in Balochistan is unable to protect itself from terrorism.

This week, Pakistan’s chief opposition party, Pakistan Muslim League (N) spearheaded a rally of political groups outside the parliament in Islamabad to protest issues like the absence of governance that has led to the massacres of Shia Hazaras, and “load-shedding” – a euphemism for massive power outages – that people suffer on account of mismanagement and corruption.

It was an event that brought “strange bed-fellows,” like Nawaz Sharif to ally with the Jamiat-i-Ulema Islam led by Maulana Fazlur Rehman – the ideologue cum politician who allied with Sharif’s nemesis, Gen. Pervaiz Musharraf.

But these are shifting alliances that have the March Senate elections in mind, and will be likely disbanded thereafter.

Similarly, the politics that have brought the ethnic MQM back into accepting ministerial positions with the PPP is an alliance built in sand. Indeed, the calm in Karachi can quickly turn into a storm, once criminal elements patronized by every political party returns to action.

Ten years on, the politicking goes on at the expense of real developmental progress …a situation that has grown worse as target assassinations grow from the fall out in Afghanistan.

Balochistan new hub of sectarian killings

October 06-11: “They ordered the passengers off the bus,” said Hassan, a 16-year-old construction worker who survived the September 19 sectarian attack on Hazaras, a minority Shia group in Pakistan’s southwest Balouchistan province. Carrying around forty passengers, mostly pilgrims going to Iran, the bus was stopped in the Mastung area, just an hour drive outside the provincial capital Quetta, and only half a kilometre from a Paksitani police checkpost.

“Everybody got off, but I hid under one of the seats. The gunmen did not come up to check the bus. They just ordered everyone off.”

The Hazaras were separated from the four or five Balouch passengers, who stood watching. They were lined up for an execution-style massacre.

“After that, I heard no words. They said nothing to them and just opened fire.” The gunmen sped away in two pick up trucks. When Hassan came out of hiding and stepped out of the bus, he saw bodies and blood. Twenty six were killed and six injured, according to media reports. But Hasan remembers only seeing three injured, among them 19-year-old Mohamed Ayaz, a carpet weaver from a family with nine siblings. On his first pilgrimage to Iran, Ayaz was shot in the leg, but what saved him was two other bodies that collapsed on top of him absorbing the subsequent bullets.

“It is on my mind every day,” Ayaz told Al Jazeera, “because even within Quetta city, they can kill.” The recent spate of violence targeting the minority Hazaras, Shia by sect, has left the community of about 500,000 people fearing for their safety. According to local leaders, at least 90 Hazaras have been gunned down in and around Quetta since July 30. In the most recent incidents, on October 4, at least thirteen people were killed when gunmen stormed a bus and opened fire indiscriminately.

Lashkar-e-Jangvi, an extremist group with links to al-Qaeda, has claimed responsibility for the October 4 assault as well as several other targeted attacks on Shias – particularly Hazara Shias – in Balochistan. ”We hundred per cent believe that it is Lashkar e Jangvi (LEJ) because they always take responsibility,” says Ahmed Kohzad, General Secretary of Hazara Democratic Party.

Formed during the military regime of General Zia ul haq, LEJ was banned after the government of Parviz Musharraf annouced that Pakistan was joining the US alliance in the “war against terror”. But it has continued to operate in many parts of Pakistan, particularly in Punjab, and has been linked to the attack on Islamabad’s Marriot hotel in 2008, as well as the assault on visiting Sir Lankan cricket team in 2009. Also in 2009, LEJ members reportedly played a role in the siege on the army headquarters in Islamabad.

Imprisoned since 1997 for over 50 cases ranging from murder to terrorism, LEJ’s leader, Malik Ishaq, was freed on July 15 from jail for a lack of evidence. In his speaking tours since his release, he has continued to incite violence against Shias, as on September 19, he was welcomed into Alipur by a “party of 800 men on motorcycles chanting anti-Shia slogans,” the Pakistani paperThe Tribune reported. Reacting to his release, the Imamia Students Association, a shia group, warned that his release would mean more violence against Shias.

“The planned release of terror kingpin Malik Ishaq who is also the co-founder of banned organisation Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, with the blessing of Punjab government’s weak prosecution and the court’s blind decision is likely to fuel the ruthless killings of Shias across the country,” they said. Reza Nasim Jan, Pakistan team lead at the American Enterprise Institute, says although there is no direct evidence tying Ishaq to the rapid increase in violence, his anti-Shia rhetoric, on display during speaking tours and rallies focused in Sindh and Punjab, has not changed since his release.

“While there is no smoking gun linking Ishaq’s release with the spike in violence in Balochistan, based on the reporting of rallies and Ishaq’s speaking tour, his rhetoric remains pretty virulently anti-Shia,” he said. ”Ishaq and another Lashkar-e-Jhangvi leader, Ghulam Rasool Shah, were arrested after the Mustang attack, indicating that the police, at least, were drawing connections between Ishaq’s activities and the rise in killings.” ”When you release a man accused of 70 murders, a man whose followers actively attack the state, it sends a message that you are not willing to take these guys on. And it will likely encourage further such activity,” said Jan.

Failing to provide security
“People live in strange environment of fear,” said a 26-year-old doctor who cannot be named for his own safety. A recent graduate, the doctor had worked in one of Quetta’s largest hospitals for the past year, but was forced to quit for safety reasons. ”My mother and sister would cry every day as I left for work, afraid that I might not return.”

After protests against government inaction on October 4, Pakistan’s police announced that they have launched a crackdown and rounded up nearly 100 people in a raid for the latest attack. The provincial government has also formed an investigation committeethat is expected to submit a report within 15 days. Additionally, the government has promised increased security measures and police presence, but locals say such measures could not assure their safety. ”There are only about 1,100 policemen across Quetta for all purposes including regular policing, providing security for VIPs and other things,” Jan says. “Given how stretched authorities are, and with an active separatist insurgency in Balochistan among other issues, I doubt providing security for Hazaras is a top priority for the law enforcement.”Despite repeated attempts, Al Jazeera could not reach a spokesman in the provincial government for comment.

‘Erosion of respect for rights’
A persecuted ethnic minority in Afghanistan, the Hazaras first migrated to current-day Pakistan in 1890′s, fleeing the wrath of Abdul Rahman Khan, the Emir of Afghanistan. They took up residence around Quetta, then a British Garrison town. ”We struggled for Pakistan’s independence, we fought wars for this country,” says Ahmed Kohzad, General Secretary of the Hazara Democratic Party.

In 1965, when Pakistan went to war with India over Kashmir, Hazara commanders were given titles for their bravery. At least two commanders, he said, were given the title of “Lion of Kashmir.” ”But since 1999, at least 550 members of our community have been killed,” he said
Hazaras mostly live in two neighbourhoods of Quetta, Mari Abad, near an army base in the eastern part of the city, and Hazara Town, in the west. Since July, the doctor said, the residents have minimised going back and forth between the two neighbourhoods. ”People are scared to even go to the other town for funerals,” he said. “And when they go out, they make sure it’s not a Hazara bus they travel in. They recite their prayers, not knowing whether they will make it.”

According to Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific director, the Pakistani government has failed to address the collapse of law and order in Balochistan. Kill-and-dump operations have gone unanswered by authorities. ”The Pakistani government has clearly not taken enough steps as the attacks are increasing,” Zarifi told Al Jazeera. ”It’s very worrying that groups like Lashkar-e-Jangvi explicitly say they want to target minorities, and the government is yet to take concrete action against them. Some of their members have been detained, but without a proper trial to ensure justice.”

In July 2008, two members of Lashkar-e-Jangvi, one of them on death row, escaped from a high-security prison in Quetta. Usman Saifullah and Shafiq ur Rehman were convicted for, among other things, the raid on Shia mosque in Quetta in 2003 that killed 53 people. ”In the past ten years, we have seen a general erosion of the respect for the rights of minorities,” says Amnesty’s Zarifi. “The Human rights community in Pakistan has been crying out against this phenomenon for years: that by not doing anything in the face of those who call for violence against minorities, by not doing enough to show that Pakistani society has a history of inclusivity, it gives signals to the culture at large that this violence is ok. ”When the government does nothing against the people who call for violence on things very trivial, it clearly sends a wrong message about the value of human life.”

Hazaras have launched country wide protests, hoping the government will take more take steps to ensure their safety. Their notice has been heard at the Balochistan high court, and they hope to take their appeal to the country’s supreme court in Islamabad. ”We want the government to go after Lashkar e Jangvi,” says Kohzad. ” It’s a network of possibly 20 to 30 men, and they have wreaked fear in this city. They only thing that can bring us security is a targeted operation against them.”

Citizens Celebrate 25th anniversary of Literacy Drive for Pakistan’s Children

Citizen’s Education Development Foundation (CEDF) celebrated 25 years on October1, 2011. CEDF is a small NGO with only one goal—Functional literacy for all.

The organization has been imparting literacy to the forgotten children of Karachi through its network of 21 informal Home Schools and the Mobile School. After a year with CEDF, students are assisted with admission to government schools. CEDF provides these students with books and uniforms each year and follows their progress.

An estimated 10,000 boys and girls have been helped by CEDF in the past years. Many have completed their matriculation and are continuing with college or vocational education—still helped financially by CEDF. Some are gainfully employed.

CEDF believes that social equality can be achieved only through quality education, CEDF organized a seminar titled: “Education for Enlightenment and better job Opportunities”. The event was held in the grounds of Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture.

This was a unique event because of the nature of the subject and diversity of participants from all sections of society- from the illiterate to the professional. Over 400 persons attended, among whom were domestic servants, their children, housewives, small shop owners, as well as educationists, social activists, scientists, doctors, lawyers, artists and university faculty.

This integration of diverse participants was intended to let the wealthy stratum of society understand the deprivations and injustices faced by the underprivileged class where it relates to lack of schools and poor standard of education, and to engage them in helping to uplift this class.

Describing the gulf between rich and poor classes of Pakistan as being analogous to the first and third world countries, Dr Naseem Salahuddin, founder of CEDF said that this gulf is responsible for the disparities in social structures where the poor serve the rich, where young children are employed in homes to clean and sweep, rather than to help them get education. It is the duty of the privileged class to realize this and inculcate education rather than service.

The Vocation Fest was a novel idea. There were ten stalls put up by different vocational institutes so that information and direction were available to CEDF students after matriculation that would guide them towards job opportunities such as carpentry, electrical, plumbing, computer, hairdressing, nursing, etc.

Potential vocation seekers picked up information of their interest and would contact the organizations at a later time.

Oxfam Warns of Second Disaster

Sluggish donor response to Pakistan floods is
another disaster in the making: Oxfam
September 27th, 2011 at 3.02 pm.

Islamabad – International aid agency Oxfam expressed alarm over the floods in Sindh and Balochistan provinces, as only $1.30 has been committed per person by international donors in the first 10 days of the UN appeal as opposed to $3.20 committed in the same period during last year’s floods.

Oxfam calls on the Government of Pakistan and the international donor community to dig deep into their resources and rapidly increase their funding to prevent the disaster from deteriorating further. The agency warns that the situation of millions of people in Sindh and Balochistan will worsen unless more aid arrives.

According to the latest figures, more than 8.8 million people in Sindh and 14,000 people in Balochistan so far have been affected by the 2011 monsoon rains. The human impact of this disaster in terms of the number of people affected is more than the combined impact of the Haiti earthquake and the Pakistan earthquake of 2005. Reported losses are being estimated at $215 million, and that number is likely to increase as some areas are inaccessible, and the impact of the floods cannot be assessed.

“This is a cruel repeat of last year. Again funding is too little and far too slow. Donors must recognise the gravity of the situation. Millions of innocent people, the majority of which are women and children, are in desperate need of the basics: food, water, sanitation, healthcare and shelter. If assistance does not come quickly, then a second emergency of rising malnutrition and rising water-borne diseases risks making a public health disaster a reality. There is no time to waste. We must all act now,” said Neva Khan, Country Director of Oxfam in Pakistan.

Approximately 6.8 million acres of land have been damaged by the floods – an area nearly as large as Haiti.

According to the UN, the floods have wiped out 73 percent of standing crops, 36 percent of livestock and 67 percent of food stocks in the 13 worst affected districts of Sindh. In a province where already 72 percent of the population is acutely short of food, this loss of crops means hundreds of thousands more people don’t have enough to eat.

“Some of the most agriculturally productive districts have been hit this time. Sugar cane, chilli, cotton and rice crops have been damaged right before the harvest season. The women I met in some of the unofficial camps in Sanghar and Mirpurkhas districts of Sindh told me about the very difficult life choices they have to make every day. Many are going without food in order to feed their children. No one should have to make such choices. It is time to truly show the women, men and children of Sindh that we are human and have compassion. This must be shown through our actions — now,” said Khan.

Approximately 97 percent of the UN’s $357 million appeal remains unfunded. So far only $11.5 million has been committed by donors. This pales in comparison with the amounts committed to other crises. Within the first 10 days of the 2005 Pakistan earthquake, which left some 3.5 million people homeless, the international community had committed $247 million and pledged $45 million. This works out to $70 committed per person, during that time period.

Likewise, some $742 million was committed to Haiti 10 days after the quake and $920 million pledged. Some 1.5 million were directly affected by the quake, which works out at $495 per person in the first 10 days.

“People are living in desperate conditions. Each passing day puts more people at risk of deadly diseases, forces more people into hunger and destroys more futures. We are in a battle against time. Donors, the UN, aid agencies and the government, need to step up their response immediately.

Two weeks into the response, Oxfam and our partners have reached more than 238,191 people. We have provided 137,979 people with clean water supplies, conducted hygiene promotion sessions with 8,428 people, provided 20,335 people with hygiene kits and assisted in the search and rescue of 58,208 people. Oxfam aims to reach 850,000 people over the duration of its response and is working in the eight worst affected districts of Sindh.