Gilgit - Baltistan

[Analysis] Attabad Disaster Response; “Unprecedented relief” vs. “No relief”

Special Correspondent 

Whether or not the government has been able to take care of the people affected by Attabad landslide disaster is a hot topic, as the people of Hunza Valley commemorate the second anniversary of the disaster, on January 4.

Government officials and political leaders close to the ruling party argue that they have done everything in their capacity and authority to help the people affected by the damming of Hunza River and the landslide disaster.

An official told Pamir Times that nowhere else in Pakistan have disaster affected people been compensated as generously as in the case of Hunza Valley. He said that on average the affected families have received cash and relief items worth around 1 million rupees, each. “600,000 rupees have been paid to the families who lost their houses, in addition to 100,000 paid separately by the Bait-al-Maal”, he argued. He also said that the government has continuously made efforts to ensure arrival of relief items from China for the entire population of Gojal valley and the affectees of Attabad.

He further mentioned the 2 Crore rupees paid by the Education Ministry in terms of scholarship and financial assistance to schools and affected students.

Those who think the government has done enough for the people also argue that a flood of relief items reached the region offered by NGOs and not a single soul was left hungry for even one day, despite of a mammoth disaster.

“People are criticizing us for flooding Gojal with relief”, a high-ranking government official told Pamir Times. “If the government had not brought the relief items, these same people would be blaming us for not doing anything and leaving the people at the mercy of hunger”, he said.

On the contrary, the activists and opposition political workers maintain that relief is never their top priority. “We are not dying for relief” an activist of Rabta Committee Mutasreen-e-Gojal (RMCG) told PT. “From day one we have been demanding drainage of the dammed river to ensure that the water starts flowing its natural course again and the dammed valley resurfaces”, he said. “The government and Frontier Works Organization have completely failed to drain the lake, despite of spending tens of millions of rupees”, he continued.

The activists also blame the government for corruption in distribution of relief items.

Another reason why the activists consider the government’s response to be a major failure is the fact that despite of tall claims, it has failed to provide health facilities to the people of Gojal.

The murder of two IDPs by police and the resultant detention of hundreds of people on charges of arson and loot has also exacerbated the situation, alienating large numbers of people, specially youth, from the government and administration.

“They were quick to arrest hundreds of the youth of Hunza but no progress has been made on providing justice to the father and son who were mercilessly murdered by police”, an activist named Jahangir said.

“The judicial inquiry report is gathering dust in the drawer of the Chief Secretary or the Chief Minister while innocent political activists are behind the bars”, comrade Barcha of PYF argued. “This is nothing short of the murder of justice”, he said.

It seems that both parties, the government and the political activists, are right on many counts. While it may not be right to call the response “unprecedented”, it is also not accurate to say that “no relief”, in terms of items and their impact, has reached the people.

There is no doubt that ample relief has been provided to the people of Gojal, Sarat and Attabad, in terms of cash, fuel and food items. Several high ranking officials have visited the region, including Prime Minister Gilani, COAS General Kayani, PMLN Chief Nawaz Sharif and several ministers and parliamentarians. If anything, these high profile visits show that there was a serious concern about the disaster at the highest level.

Why then has the lake not been drained yet and why is the strategic Karakuram Highway, important from defence point of view as well as in terms of trade, left closed for around 24 months?

Some offer technical reasons, including the inefficiency or incapacity of Frontier Works Organization (FWO) as a major reason, while others opt for more complex conspiratorial theories. Some go as far as to blame USA for pressurizing the Pakistani government and establishment, to  keep China “isolated”, as part of a “containment” policy.

Others argue that petty monetary interests of bureaucrats, military personnel (mostly because of the involvement of FWO) and political leaders are behind the historically longest blockade of Karakuram Highway, the only land-route between China and Pakistan.

The announcements coming from the Aiwan-e-Saddar in Islamabad about “deals with China for opening of KKH”, don’t seem to win much support or admiration in the region. At best, the announcements are being considered as badly-crafted pacifiers and, at worst, the “conspiracy to keep us disconnected”.

It is in the strategic interest of Pakistan to drain the lake and revive trade and movement through the Karakuram Highway. More delays in this respect will lead to even greater sufferings for the affected people and traders, while also elongating the vulnerability of a strategic defence link.

That the delays and failures are fanning discontent and discord in the Hunza Valley is very obvious and it doesn’t augur well for the state, because the region is located at an international border, connected to China and Afghanistan.

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  1. As a civil society organisation(GOLSON).WE appreciate the effort of pamirtimes has been made in this regard that the disaster is getting completion of two years.the people are very thankful to provide relief item from China but this is unlucky of the area the communities preference to drain the water and give access.the IDP’s are compansated but after a harsh stuggle of losing thier lives and psycological stress.the education fund is given to the community which is distributed to the favourable and relative students.Gojal development fund is announced but no progress has been made.the community has the right to know when the rehabilition will be implemented

  2. As far as I think its a blunder mistake to directly blaming the present government or any NGOs or institution.ya off course there are some mistakes made by our government and they were not able to provide,and facilitate which our people were demanding..instead of assigning the task of drainage of water and investing millions of rupees on FWO,it was better option to assign it to chines…
    apart from this in the same year the worst flood was also observed,which has almost destroyed GB,KPK and Punjab. And that was not any easy task to handle that situation and it captured the eyes of government to whose areas. and i have seen those areas and i really thanked God that at least we were not in this situation as they are facing.
    we have to remember that CHINA RELIEF is not the permanent solution of our problem … I think its becoming our habit that we are waiting for external aids/ relief which is not only spoiling our present but also our future,we should not relive on china or any NGOs because they are just for a time being! we have to develop ourselves,our socio-economy and the most important oUr AreA..!

  3. What this article misses out is extraordinary relief and help provided by FOCUS Humanitarian Assistance Pakistan. They did excellent work of providing initial relief,continued to provide help and assistance and set up early warning system.They got International experts to examine the natural disaster.
    Thank you FOCUS

  4. problem is not of food to all those who suffered during this period but the prob is of delay in work, which will not be acceptable for the people of hunza . they have suffered alot and they want the problems to be solved soon . esp the shishkat valley .

  5. I, first of all would pay thanks to the people and the Govt. of China who since two years are providing food and fuel relief to the whole population of Gojal, Government of Pakistan, if our readers remember, chief minister, the GB, was among the delegation who visited China with President Zardari, last year who talked about the Gojal lake and its impact on the people of Gojal with Chinese Govt. and thanks to the NGOs working for the safety of people and provided temporary shelters and food, thanks specifically to Pamir Times and its volunteers (writers and photo journalists) who time to time highlighted the difficulties facing by the 25000 populated Gojal valley and generally the journalists and writers who have been writing and highlighting the issues related to the affected people in the international and national media.
    I will not blame any of them discussed in the article but we could demand from the Provincial Government, FWO, NDMA and from the Government of Pakistan that realizing the strategic value of Gojal bordered internationally with China and Afghanistan and difficulties (health, education, economic, etc) facing by the local people, release the water because it’s not a Steel way-too hard to dig out and if am not wrong a dame could be built in two years but releasing water from artificial dame is not that much difficult.
    Whom we call????

    Rahman Posh
    Khunjerav Villagers Organization-KVO

  6. thanks for the aid extended from the chaina government to the atta abad effecties but the great hunzukuz who never tried to beg for any such assistance from others in the history. we should always try to meet our requierments from our own resources. we should not forget that great people always struggle to re build and re gain their demages.

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