October 2005 News

Whither political leadership of AJK?

16 October 2005
The Daily Times
Irfan Ghauri and Zulfiqar Ghuman

Muzaffarabad: The entire political leadership and civil administration of Azad Jammu and Kashmir is out of the picture while thousands of people are suffering the worst ever calamity and running from pillar to post to save themselves from further disasters.None of the members of the Legislative Assembly, even those belonging to the districts not hit by the earthquake, could be seen in the AJK capital city of Muzaffarabad to coordinate on any relief efforts or console the victims.Though, the military has moved, it seems as if it has adopted the role of administrating the relief camps rather than taking part in the relief efforts. When asked about the relief activities, several senior army officers manning the relief camps and the Neelum ground helipad refused to reply to the questions, saying, 'We are not supposed to talk to the media.'However, people said they were distraught and dejected over the performance of the civil administration which had failed to stand by them in their time of trial, shifting the entire burden on the armed forces.'No one visited us. We do not know anything about our future,' said Naila, a BCom student, living with her three sisters, two younger brothers and a mother in a 10x12 feet tent which was accommodating 34 people from four different families in the university football grounds.She said that the tents were provided by the military, but that they were not good enough to save them from the rain and cold, pointing towards her two-year-old bother, who was laying on a wet bed sheet with rain drops pouring through the tent.A middle-aged Sajid Abbasi, who works with the education department, has also been staying with his two wives and two children in a tent in the new campus of the AJK University. He said that no leader had turned up here and that even the local community leaders were absent from consoling the suffering. He said all those who were well off had shifted to other parts of the country leaving the poor and helpless, who had lost every belonging under the rubble and had no other option but to remain in the open, behind.The 35-year-old Zulaikha with a baby in her lap and whose spouse was among those thousands of people who died in Saturday's deadly quake, managed to survive with her 8 children of ages 4 months to 12 years and said 'They are cruel. Only the physically powerful are receiving aid. It is an all male affair and I have lost my husband.' She said that there was no one to coordinate the relief efforts and distribute them in an orderly manner. 'Where are these political leaders?' she asked, frustrated.'My children are surviving on juice packets and the leftovers of other survivors from adjacent tents,' she said, adding that this was the situation in a city which had piles of aid supplies from all around the country. Long queues of vehicles can be seen on roads leading to the quake-hit areas with tons of relief goods and aid supplies and the city is stocked with supplies, though the chaotic distribution system is still triggering ugly scenes of scuffles in many parts of the city.Many survivors believed that had the political and civil administration come to organise the situation after the deadly quake, things would not have turned out so poorly. 'We understand that our leadership also suffered the same misery and shock as us, but they should have played their role in alleviating the misery of their people,' said Muhammad Aslam, a refugee from the Kupwara district of the Indian Held Kashmir.


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