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Injured and Homeless, Kashmiris Awaits Assistance. These photos Were Taken Between Tuesday and Thursday.
—BBC NEWS VIDEO: An Estimated 38,000 Are Dead, Aid Deleveries are Hampered By Bad Weather, Sept. 15, 00:01:39
—SLIDESHOW: Earthquake In Pakistan

Katrina Victims Get Luxury Hotels, as Pakistanis Do Without

The huge divide between the world’s rich and poor is well-illustrated by the yawning gap in assistance offered those who suffer nature’s wrath. According to this op-ed article from Tunisia’s Tunis Hebdo, the failure of the international community to deal more equitably with disaster victims is a sad reflection of the world we live in.

By M'Hamed Ben Youssef

October 17 - 23 Issue

Tunis Hebdo - Original Article (French)    

Kashmiris in Muzaffarabad Plead for Aid Last Week

Ten days after the earthquake that devastated South Asia, particularly Pakistani Kashmir, it is still impossible to make a precise assessment of the catastrophe. One speaks of 25,000 dead, even 53,000 and more than 60,000 wounded. Tens of thousands of these were evacuated to the few remaining hospital standing upright, since a thousand of these disappeared. One counts, already, 2.5 million people left homeless.

Waiting for Food in Muzaffarabad

Tens of villages and several cities were wiped out. And the regional capital, Muzaffarabad is in ruins. The catastrophe of Pakistan proved, according to experts, even more murderous that last year’s tsunami in the Indian Ocean. That is to say, the extent of the damage from this temblor was the most murderous in the history of the region. Pakistan has just lost an entire generation of secondary students and schoolboys, buried en masse under their respective schools. 

The outlook for Kashmir, on the threshold of a hard winter, is very dim. And Islamabad [Pakistan’s capital] cannot bare the weight of this misfortune, surpassing by orders of magnitude the capacity of an undeveloped state to reckon with alone, and surpassing in damage all emergency planning. What’s more, Kashmir remains threatened by terrible epidemics.

Such a cataclysm incites one to reflection. As before, we have witnessed the failure of the international community to act with solidarity, an absence of solidarity between the rich and poor countries of this world, a world that is fast on its way to becoming irretrievably split.

And though the help, which began to arrive after a 72-hour delay, and after a fashion began to be organized, hordes of dazed survivors, left to themselves and exhausted with hunger, were not kept from wandering the rubble amongst the decomposing corpses. The situation is all the more intolerable, as several of the disaster-hit regions are mountainous. Hard to access, the relief effort quickly sank back into ineffectiveness.

-- International assistance is arriving in Pakistan at a slow drip. There is an almost morbid disinterest from the West toward these people, as though they themselves have been raised on another planet. Is this because there were no Westerners among the victims?  Although an abundance of aid flooded into Southeast Asia after the terrifying tsunami, comparatively little has arrived in South Asia since the devastating quake of the recent black October 8.  Could it be because these poor wretched populations are considered, wrongly or rightly, close relations of the Taliban and could potentially be active sympathizers of bin Laden?

President Musharraf's Opponents Have Been Emboldoned By the Disaster.

-- Arab and Muslim relief proved, in their turn, to be of little help, owing to the fact that these independent aid organizations were dissolved after the September 11 attacks, due to American fears that they were funding Jihadis. International humanitarian assistance is adjudged meaningless compared, for example, with the aid provided after the disastrous floods caused by Hurricane Katrina. The evacuated American population of Louisiana, at last, were placed in luxurious hotels at a cost of ten of million of dollars per day! But the Pakistanis, they were not even entitled to medication to relieve the suffering of their multitude of wounded.

A Child is Born in a Kashmir Relief Camp

-- The United Nations proved, once again, its obvious incapacity. Here we are, 60 years after the formation of this prestigious organization, and it has never condescended to create an international executive capable of responding to natural disasters or even to carry out rapid interventions when necessity requires. Kofi Annan should make doing so one of his top priorities, especially as two to three such apocalyptic events seem to befall humanity each year. But alas, he doesn’t even think of it!

The devastation of this terrifying earthquake would have been far less severe if the buildings in this area of Pakistan, well-known for its seismic instability, were built according the criteria and materials suited to such a region. But because of the abysmal management of the relief operation and the completely unprecedented extent of the devastation, the opposition will take advantage of the dissatisfaction in the country to flay President Musharraf and to weaken him, a man who has gone against the majority of his own government to offer his outstretched hand to that bloodthirsty man, [Ariel] Sharon.

Moreover, several of his Pakistani detractors believe very strongly that this earthquake is heaven’s penalty for the intrigues of their leader. The same applies to Bush, according to these same informers, in regard to the torments of "Katrina" as well as his loss of popularity, because he displeased God by deciding to occupy Iraq militarily.

None of these surreal calculations answer to any objective criterion. But this simply indicates that many people apportion some share of the blame for these events to the blunders of our decision makers. These include some in their own ranks, such as the President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, renowned for his outspokenness. According to him, all of the recent major catastrophes that have occurred, in Pakistan, in the United States or in Central America, "are the work of capitalism!!"

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