Pakistan: The Disaster, and the Way Out
Posted on: Monday, August 23, 2010
This statement was put out by Labour Party Pakistan (Karachi), National Trade Union Federation.
The recent floods represent the worst disaster in Pakistan’s history. The country has been devastated from the Northern Areas to its Southern tip. The State, stripped of its capacity to meet peoples’ needs by neoliberalism and militarism alike, has been found wanting—both in its longstanding failure to maintain existing infrastructure, and in its response to the calamity.
The grassroots relief efforts that have emerged across the country are heartening, but a crisis of this magnitude can only be handled by an institution with the resources and reach of the federal government. As in all disasters, the assistance of the military will be necessary—but this must be subject to civilian oversight, and must not be exploited to glorify the Army at the expense of the government. The military’s relative strength is a direct legacy of pro-Army federal budgets, and we remember too well the failures of the Musharraf government in 2005.
Reconstruction costs have been provisionally estimated at $15 billion—a mammoth 46% of the total federal budget for the forthcoming fiscal year. It is critical, therefore, that the political and structural roots of the crisis be urgently addressed.
As of July 2010, Pakistan’s total external debt stood at $54.5 billion. A great majority of the debt is owed to multilateral institutions, the Paris Club donors, and the IMF, all of which can be written-off if the political will is found. Servicing on the public or publicly-guaranteed portion of the external debt in FY 2010 amounted to roughly $3.4 billion—an amount seven times larger than the UN’s initial aid target of $450 million. The State should not be sending this kind of revenue overseas while people die of hunger and disease at home.
The budget must be revisited, with the intention of cutting all excess expenditure and redirecting money towards relief and rehabilitation. Current discussion around revising the budget calls for cuts to development spending, when it is fact the military budget that must be targeted. The Rs 442.2 billion allocated to defence in the current federal budget is up 13% from FY 2010. Resources saved must be urgently redirected towards the relief and rehabilitation efforts.
International governments must radically increase their assistance to Pakistan. The amount thus far collected is miniscule relative to what the moment demands. The assistance offered by the ADB and the World Bank are loans, and will have to be repaid—a fate that Pakistan’s poor are unlikely to be able to afford at any stage in the immediate future. Assistance to the Pakistani government must be made as grants.
We further call on the international community—specifically the antiwar movement—to redouble its efforts to expose and redirect the enormous resources wasted on the criminal wars in Iraq and Af-Pak. The US spends around $12.2 billion on the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan every month—the cost of the Afghan surge alone was $33 billion, roughly 220 times greater than the amount the US has pledged for flood relief in Pakistan.
Evidence is also emerging that links these floods to rising atmospheric temperatures, and thus to climate change. Three-quarters of all carbon emissions have been produced by only 20% of the world’s population, and it is the poor in the developing world who are bearing the brunt of the resulting environmental degradation. The rich countries ought to offer urgent reparations to Pakistan as compensation for suffering the costs of others’ industrialization.
Finally, after the corruption that marked earthquake relief efforts, we recognize the importance of the aid being distributed in a transparent and democratic manner. We support the creation of a separate national commission to oversee reconstruction spending, provided it fulfills its mandate and is made entirely open to public scrutiny. All relevant authorities, like the NDMA, should further be brought under civilian control.
Recognizing all this, we call urgently for action based around the following demands. Only the pressure of a popular movement can force the hand of the government and international community.
1. CANCEL THE DEBT
2. CUT DEFENCE EXPENDITURE
3. INTERNAIONAL ASSISTANCE IN GRANTS, NOT LOANS
4. REDIRECT AMERICAN MILITARY SPENDING
5. REPARATIONS FOR CLIMATE CHANGE
6. DEMOCRATIC AND TRANSPARENT RECONSTRUCTION
Archives"Press Room" Home August 2014 July 2014 June 2014 May 2014 April 2014 March 2014 February 2014 January 2014 December 2013 November 2013 October 2013 September 2013 August 2013 July 2013 June 2013 May 2013 April 2013 March 2013 February 2013 January 2013 December 2012 November 2012 October 2012 September 2012 August 2012 July 2012 June 2012 May 2012 April 2012 March 2012 February 2012 January 2012 December 2011 November 2011 October 2011 September 2011 August 2011 July 2011 June 2011 May 2011 April 2011 March 2011 February 2011 January 2011 December 2010 November 2010 October 2010 September 2010 August 2010 July 2010 June 2010 May 2010 April 2010 March 2010 February 2010 January 2010 December 2009 November 2009 October 2009 September 2009 August 2009 July 2009 June 2009 May 2009 April 2009 March 2009 February 2009 January 2009 December 2008 November 2008 October 2008 September 2008 August 2008 July 2008 June 2008 May 2008 April 2008 March 2008 February 2008 January 2008 December 2007 November 2007 October 2007 September 2007 August 2007 June 2007 May 2007 April 2007 March 2007 February 2007 January 2007 December 2006 November 2006 October 2006 September 2006 July 2006 June 2006 April 2006 March 2006 January 2006 December 2005 November 2005 September 2005 August 2005 July 2005 April 2005 March 2005 November 2004 October 2004 April 2004 March 2004 January 2004 December 2003 October 2003 September 2003 June 2003 April 2003 January 2003 September 2002 June 2002 January 2002 November 2001 October 2001 September 2001 August 2001 January 2001
MADRE & Our Partners Make News
In Iraq, women 'are the battlefield' (Women Under Siege , August 12, 2014)
Haitian woman faces death threats for speaking out about violence against women (WBEZ Worldview, July 16, 2014)
Media Spotlight Turns Away from Iraq, as Concerns Mount Over Human Rights and Political Stalemate (Uprising Radio, July 11, 2014)
Iraq: The women left behind (Aljazeera, July 3, 2014)
Under Isis, Iraqi women again face an old nightmare: violence and repression (The Guardian, July 3, 2014)