Intro: The humanitarian crisis in PoJK has become bad to worse following the inefficiency of the federal government of Pakistan to carry out rescue and rehabilitation work post floods. To wrest the crisis, India needs to take affirmative steps.
Substantial areas of the state of Jammu and Kashmir including Pakistan-occupied Jammu-Kashmir (PoJK) were afflicted by floods of mammoth proportions beginning September this year. On September 7, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited the flood affected areas of PoJK. Instead of being given warm welcome, he was greeted with slogans of “Go Nawaz Go” which reflected the frustration of the people with regard to the apathy of the federal government of Pakistan in dealing with the very critical situation.
The slogan “Go Nawaz Go” has since gained popularity across Pakistan, especially in the camp of Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party. It was used extensively during the visit of Sharif to the United States for addressing the United Nation General Assembly and in London during PTI rallies. In Pakistan, the slogan was used during anti-government protests. And for personal reasons, very conveniently, PTI has converted it into a rather derogatory song.
The slogan has gained political momentum but the people of PoJK who coined it to emphasise their terrible condition continue to be in dire straits. Their situation is not being associated with the slogan. In fact, their condition is not being paid attention to because the area is being kept under wraps by the federal government with not much information coming out. Unfortunately, neither is the local media covering it, nor it is given the attention it deserves by the national or the international media.
Some overseas organisations fighting for the rights of the people of PoJK are making an attempt to highlight the plight of the people. The chairman of the United Kashmir People National Party, Sardar Shaukat Ali Kashmiri, has given a number of interviews to bring into focus the appalling situation in PoJK. He holds the view that the hapless people have not even overcome the massive earthquake of 2005 and now they have been totally ruined by the massive floods. He feels that the so-called government of Azad Kashmir which is under the control of four lent officers of the federal government of Pakistan has neither the means nor the authority to carry out rescue and rehabilitation. He said, the federal government is uninterested and the army is nowhere to be seen, hence, the situation is degenerating from bad to worse. Many experts agree with his viewpoint.
People in PoJK are surviving in broken down tented colonies in constant fear of the looming winter. There is scarcity of food, warm clothing, and medicines. And children have stopped going to school since long. It is feared, the area may soon be in the throes of an epidemic.
It is important to bring to attention here that, unlike the Indian army, the Pakistan army does not involve itself in rescue and rehabilitation operations beyond the minimum requirement. In places like PoJK, it does not even do what is minimally required. The responsibility is placed entirely on the shoulders of the local government which lacks necessary equipment, aid and infrastructure to respond.
International Non-government Organisations (NGOs) and civil society organisations which wish to extend help are not allowed to function in POJK citing security constraints. International aid from countries like Saudi Arabia and even the United States given for disbursement is used by NGO’s like the Jamaat-ud-Dawa and its satellites which are actually front organisation of terror outfits like the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). A major portion of the aid is being used by these organisations to fund their terror activities against India and to attract recruits.
Experts are of the view that with 40 percent of the affected people of PoJK under the poverty line, rehabilitation is all the more difficult. They simply do not have any personal means or support to bounce back and are totally dependent upon the government. The government, in turn, is not forthcoming and is thus making things even more difficult for them.
On September 7, Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the flood affected area of the Kashmir Valley; he held a detailed meeting with the officials, declared the situation a national calamity and granted an immediate relief package of Rs 1,000 crore which has been followed by another package of Rs 750 crore. Conscious of the deteriorating situation in PoJK post floods, providing relief package to aid rehabilitation in this area is also high on Modi’s agenda. However, stung by the confrontational reception that he received in PoJK compared to the successful initiative by the Indian Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif imposed upon the so-called “Parliament of Azad Kashmir”(also called PoJK by India) to attack the relief process in India. On September 22, the illegal and toothless body had the temerity to call upon India to open the line of control so that the rescue could be carried out in Indian territories. This appeal came at a time when the rescue operation in the Kashmir Valley was all but over and the area was well into the rehabilitation phase while PoJK continued to be on the edge.
Pakistan PM’s popularity is already hitting a nadir. If not for the people of PoJK at least for his own political career Nawaz Sharif should realise that it does not pay to play politics with humanitarian issues.
The present situation in PoJK is fast becoming one of the biggest human tragedies in the world. There are many issues concerning governance and political rights, but for the moment, they need to be set aside to deal with the emerging humanitarian crisis. The world needs to overcome the Pakistani attempt to push the tragedy under the carpet and respond to the cry for help emanating from the region. The United Nations needs to send a fact finding mission there and make public the findings. Most of all, the entire region needs to be opened up to the international media so that the actual picture comes out. Beyond this, all possible assistance needs to be extended to
the beleaguered people and that too directly.
India, in particular, needs to mobilise all resources to ameliorate the poor condition of the people in PoJK. All possible political and economic means need to be put to use to overcome Pakistani resistance to reach out to Indian citizens suffering under foreign occupation.
Jaibans Singh (The writer is Editor of www.defenceinfo.com)