Dear Mr Secretary General,
We write to you from the middle of Balochistan’s worst quake-hit area, Awaran, where a deadly 7.7 magnitude earthquake killed more than a thousand people on September 24th, 2013. The powerful quake toppled numerous mud-built houses in Awaran and Turbat districts affecting nearly 350,000 people.
Thousands of helpless quake victims struggled to survive without any shelter, medical help, food, water or any immediate relief supply because of government functionaries failing to perform their responsibilities. The quake flattened 90 percent of Awaran where locals reported to media that they had to bury more than 300 people without burial shrouds. On September 27th, another powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake jolted the already devastated region killing 20 more people and injuring dozens.
Hundreds of thousands of quake victims are forced to spend the nights in the shelters made with sticks and bedsheets dug out of the rubble while looking for food. The survivors are open to high risk of viral diseases due to lack of medicines and basic medical facilities. Having lost everything in the quake, the victims are in desperate need of relief aid. It is a humanitarian crisis.
Your Excellency, as the civilised world including rights groups are well familiar with the conscience-shocking situation in Balochistan, the question arises how to help a suffering nation living in a war-zone amid never-ending military operations. Rather than letting the civilian authorities to do the job, all the relief activities are handled by Pakistan Army and its Frontier Corps (FC) who have been directly involved in military operations, abductions, torture and extrajudicial killings in the very same areas that are affected by the quake today.
Even the Chief Justice of Pakistan has many times passed remarks during different rulings stating army/FC’s direct involvement in enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings in Balochistan. The biggest fear of the people there is that the Pakistani army may utilise this calamity as a military strategy and deploy more troops and military equipment to initiate fresh military operations against the Baloch who are fighting for their national rights.
The Baloch people have been going through enormous stress in facing state brutalities and atrocities in the past few years. This stress has increased with the recent deadly earthquake and the handover of relief work to the helpless quake victims’ number one enemy, the FC. Moreover, the army took all the necessary steps to prevent international aid agencies to visit the affected areas and in order to prevent them to find out about the war crimes committed by the army in the past.
The Baloch people have valid reasons for not trusting the army. It is also against the prevailing Baloch cultural values, beliefs, psychological behaviour and code of honour to accept help or aid from their enemies. Since day one of the disaster, mainstream parties like the Baloch National Movement (BNM) and Baloch National Front (BNF) have been voluntarily carrying out relief work in the affected regions. These groups have been vigorously working day and night to help the victims deal with the natural disaster.
On the other hand, FC has been the only hurdle stopping private relief teams to visit the areas and provide relief including medical care to the injured. The authorities there are also asking the quake victims to produce Computerised National Identity Cards (CNIC) as proof of being a Pakistani and a victim before they could get any help. According to reports more than 80 % of the quake-affected people have lost their CNIC.
We seek any assistance the western society and humanitarian organisations have to offer for the suffering Baloch victims in such harsh times. There is no way such a large scale human tragedy could be handled without the assistance of international aid agencies. We request you to ask Pakistan to allow international aid agencies to visit the devastated areas. We also request you to pressurise Pakistan to withdraw its army from the quake-affected areas and make space for the indigenous Baloch parties to help their people.
Dr. Manan Baloch
Baloch National Movement (BNM) Balochistan