Full relief to storm victims urged

LAHORE: The rain-storm that lashed Karachi Saturday, followed by the cyclone that hit the Sindh and Balochistan coast Monday and Tuesday, has caused the loss of at least 250 lives. 

Whereas no force known to man can prevent natural disaster, the fact remains that many of these deaths could have been prevented. HRCP is convinced the colossal damage to houses and the huge loss of life is largely a consequence of official indifference to the situation in which most citizens live, a lack of disaster readiness and poor relief efforts. 

Most victims of the storms have been the impoverished, who live in inadequate houses that offer minimal protection. According to some initial estimates, every third house in the sprawling ‘katchi abadi’ of Orangi, housing many of Karachi’s poorest people, has been damaged. Those whose houses crumbled around them in heaps of mud and timber  report receiving no official assistance or support.  

The fact that the giant billboards that have destroyed the cityscape in all major centers claimed so many lives in Karachi is scandalous, as are the inadequacies of a power-supply mechanism which has collapsed entirely after the 45-minute storm, leaving citizens without electricity for hours or even days. The chaos that erupted in Karachi after the storm followed by panic across coastal areas of the country generated by the cyclone also belies a complete lack of disaster-readiness. Quite obviously, the pledges made in this regard after the October 2005 earthquake have remained unfulfilled and were only another of the lies rulers repeatedly tell citizens. 

HRCP demands expansion of speedy relief to victims of the disaster, and that an independent body be set-up immediately in Sindh and Balochistan to assess damage on the spot and identify the factors behind it. These factors include long years of indifference to the deprived, and further loss of life in the storms that will inevitably come in the future can be averted only by addressing the basic needs of people.

Interns!

On a more casual note:

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Our interns produce some very interesting reports every year and this time round when they are done I’d like to share them with you. Sometimes their work provides valuable insight and information that is otherwise not been discussed or explored. By the end of august I’d like to start putting up their reports, researches, trend analysis etc. Hope you find some good reading in it!

Waziristan attack will expand military violence

LAHORE: Less than 24 hours after the attack on an alleged madrassah in North Waziristan that killed at least 22 persons, there are already indications that feelings of hatred and anger are rising in response to the incident. 

HRCP condemns the failure to provide an accurate account of the incident and that loss of life of persons who have not been identified, and must be presumed innocent unless proven otherwise. Whereas we have consistently opposed all forms of militancy, HRCP reiterates the acts of violence of this kind will only lead to further attacks and a still greater loss of life. The people of Pakistan are not dispensable commodities who can be killed in such a fashion. 

It is also saddening that the government of Pakistan has declined to provide details of the incident. The statement by the ISPR, that a blast occurred within the madrassah, is hardly credible in the light of eyewitness accounts regarding the involvement of a US drone. Similar lies have been told before – following attacks in Bajaur, Balochistan and elsewhere. 

HRCP would also like to state that attempts to either strike dubious deals with militants or to annihilate them, both of which have been attempted in Waziristan and elsewhere, will not serve any purpose. Indeed, attacks conducted in secrecy will only lend support to the militant causing by arousing a sense of outrage among citizens who have been kept in the dark regarding the so-called ‘battle against terror’. 

In the longer run, militant violence, which has taken deep root in Pakistan – and is supported by thoughtless statements such as that recently made by the minister of religious affairs – will only grow unless holistic and wide-ranging measures are taken. These must include measures to address the acute socio-economic needs of people and to re-build the levels of tolerance that have slumped lower and lower over the last few decades.