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The first month of Labour Relief Campaign Pakistan

Friday 3 September 2010, by Farooq Tariq

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FAROOQ TARIQ has sent us this full report recapitulating the activity of the Labour Relief Campaign in the desperate situation faced by the thousands of Pakistani flood victims. Information on how to contribute is at the end of the article.

The Labour Relief Camp first camp was organized in Lahore on 1st August 2010 at Regal Chouck Lahore. Earlier on 25th July 2010, we decided to launch a Baluchistan appeal.

It stated, “Torrential rains have unleashed flash floods in different parts of Baluchistan over the few days.? Water levies broke leaving the people exposed to flood water.?At least three villages in district Sibi have been destroyed.?Houses, live-stock such as cattle’s and goats, household goods, clothes, shoes and other items have been destroyed.?Residents of villages are currently without drinkable water, food, shelter and in need of clothes.??In particular, the situation is dire for children and women and they are in desperate need of food and clothing.?Disease is spreading fast in the areas affected due to lack of drinkable water.?In particular, flu, fever, diarrhea, cholera have been noted and are spreading.??The government’s response has made matters worse.?They failed to act immediately, leaving tens of thousands of people unaided.? They came after twenty four hours to the make-shift camps with paltry amount of food bags to distribute.?The gap between the food being distributed and the large number of people desperate to eat led to fighting breaking out making matters even worse for these desperate people. Rubina Baluch, Women Secretary LPP Baluchistan, who is a resident of one of the affected villages said, ‘there is absolutely nothing left here – food, water, and clothing – and we are in desperate need of these’.??At least, 10, 000 people are said to be in suffering in these grave conditions”.??

Perhaps this was the first appeal by any political group in Pakistan to ask people to help the victims of torrential rains in Baluchistan.

After an informal consultation with several social and political groups in Lahore, we decided to set up the first camp. Already a group of 42 activists including 35 women belonging to Labour Education Foundation were trapped in Kalam, Swat valley. The flood in river Swat had flooded away all the bridges and the road links were delinked from the rest of the country. They were eventually evacuated by a military helicopter after 8 days of ordeal.

The camp in Lahore was supported by many activists and on the first day, we collected nearly 18,000 Rupees within two hours. Next day, it went up to nearly 50,000.

Formation of the LRC

An LRC committee was established with 8 members from eight different organizations. They included, Cindy Kariaper, Pakistan For Palestine, Farooq Tariq Pakistan Kissan Rabita Committee, Qalandar Memon Labour Party Pakistan, Bushra Khaliq Women Workers Help Line, Khalid Malik Labour Education Foundation, Ammar Jan Progressive Youth Front, Khaliq Shah CADTM Pakistan and Niaz Khan National Trade Union Federation. The committee decided to meet at least twice in a week to discuss all aspects of the campaign.

The LRC committee agreed to campaign on two fronts, collecting funds for the immediate relief and to change the priorities of the national budget demanding a total no to repayment of foreign debts and reduce the military budget, no cuts in development budget and no new taxes, no new loan, but grants and aid.

On 7th August, we issued a new appeal and here is a part that we wrote,

“Please donate to Labour Relief Campaign to help people of Pakistan is facing worst ever floods of its history. Torrential rains have unleashed flash floods in different parts of the country since last three weeks. Water levies broke leaving the people exposed to flood water.?More than 12 million people have suffered due to these floods. More than 650,000 houses have collapsed, mainly in villages.?Thousands of acres of crops have been destroyed due to flood water. Houses, live-stock such as cattle’s and goats, household goods, clothes, shoes and other items have been destroyed.? Residents of villages are currently without drinkable water, food, shelter and in need of clothes”.??

Five days later, the situation had worsened even more and it was estimated that over 20 million people are affected by the flood by then.

We wrote on 12 August:

“The flood is still on dangerous levels in several parts of Pakistan. The numbers of people affected by the flood have crossed 20 million. More torrential rains are forecast by the weather department. This is been considered one of the most devastating flood in world history. The UN has once again appealed for donations for Pakistan. But there has been a very slow response internationally to help Pakistan in this period of great devastation. After destroying most of Khaiber Pukhtoonkhawa and Southern Punjab, the water has now washed down the Indus River Valley, causing a deluge in Sindh. The water has been powered by unusually fierce monsoon rains that began in country’s northern areas some three weeks ago.?Roads, bridges and other infrastructure have given way, overwhelming the government’s ability to cope. At this point an estimated 1,600 have been killed with another 5 million left homeless”.

Camps were set up in different parts of Pakistan including Rawalpindi, Mardan, Hyderabad, Moro, Karachi, Sanghar, Layya and Sibbi.

We sent the appeal to all our international friends and by then, the world was awakening to the most catastrophic incident of Pakistan history.

The results of our efforts so far

In one month, we have raised the following:

Lahore Rs. 654587 (cash)

Lahore Rs. 45000 (goods)

Rawalpindi Rs. 5000 (cash)

Hyderabad Rs. 184100 (cash)

Hyderabad Rs. 299550 Goods and medicine

Moro Rs. 766,190 (cash)

Karachi Rs. 450,000 (cash)

Karachi Rs. 250,000 (goods)

Mardan Rs. 70,000 (cash)
Sibbi did not have information

Sanghar no information yet

Layya no information yet

International appeal Rs. 371784

Confirmed commitments and information received

SAP Netherlands Euro 5000 (Rs. 550,000)

Olof Palme International Center Sweden SEK 50,000 (Rs. 589,500)

Cultural Life Buoy campaign NOK 10,000 (Rs. 138,000)

Yasmeen USA US$ 2000 (Rs.172,000)

Pakistanis in Denmark US $ 1000 (Rs. 85000)

A total in cash raised from Pakistan: Rs. 2,129,877

International Rs. 371,784

Commitments Rs. 1,534,500

Goods: Rs. 594,550

Total cash, goods and commitments on 3 September 2010:
RS 4,630,711 (US$ 54 478)

Apart from the relief campaign, we have also launched a political campaign for non payment of foreign debts of Pakistan. We held our first press conference in first week of August in Lahore and we said, "Pakistan must refuse to pay the foreign debts and divert the amount into the relief and rehabilitation of the flood affectees. It is high time to change the priorities of the national budget and all those suggestions to cut the development budget and spend on flood affectees be stopped. There is an easy way out. Stop paying the debts owed to International Finance Institutions. donor countries and clubs.

The press conference was the first voice in Pakistan on the issue. we contacted like minded groups and parties to raise the issue and the idea was well received. Social and political groups in Islamabad met and decided to take on the issue. In Lahore, on 29th August, LRC organized a multi party conference to oppose the debt retirement and 28 political parties, trade unions and social movements agreed to participate in this campaign. on second September several hundreds marched to Islamabad to demand non payment of foreign debts. One of the largest private television channel Dunia took up the issue on a prime time talk show, "Dunia Mery Aaghey" and invited one of the organizer of the demonstration to put up the case. There is now a beginning of the awakening of some main stream political parties to take up the isse.

Three more rallies will be organized to press for this demand. One such rally will be held in Lahore on 19th September from GPO Chouck to Punjab Assembly demanding an end of payments of debts while people are in danger of dying in the aftermath of the flood. In this campaign, we have got the material support of OXFAM.

Where is the money spent?

We had decided to spend the amount on flood victims on selected areas where we have local teams to deal the question of distribution in more organsied manner and also to the most needy ones. The initial three areas selected were Union Council Tully in Sibbi district of Baluchistan, Pir Sabaq union council of district Noshehra of Khaber Pukhtoonkhawa and Southern part of Punjab. We held in food items, kitchen items and construction material in two areas, while we were unable to do anything in Saraiki area. Lately, LRC has send amount to Hyderabad jamshoro, Moro and Thatha area of Sindh through Sindh Labour Relief Committee. The local teams in Baluchistan reported wide spread disruption in food item distribution and they had to take special measures to avoid that. they issue tokens of particular food basket after conducting surveys of three villages and then asked them to collect food from a special place designated for collection the food items. Same process was carried out in Pir Sabaq area where distribution of food items and construction material was done with a very disciplined manner. The main reason of smooth distribution was our local committees which included political and trade unions activists.

In Hyderabad jamshoro, we set up medical camps and distributed medicines through our doctors association. Here in Hyderabad, we were jointly working with Communist Party Pakistan, Aadersh, A Sindhi literary magazine. In Moro, our local relief committee was formed in association with local traders and trade unions. There were the most successful in collecting amount and good from an area which was itself effected. Through joint effort, they have won the sympathies of many in the city and are the main distribution group of the area. Several other organizations have contacted and asked help in distribution to the flood affectees of Moro and Dadu district. In Karachi, SRLC set up four camps and sent four trucks of good to Moro and at present busy in Thatha district to help the flood victims who are sleeping on roads and schools.

The International Response to LRC appeal

This was to give you some idea of our activity during the first month of our relief work. Most of the amount collected in Pakistan are from ordinary people. They have donated us generously. BY setting up camps and distributing aid to flood victims in some selected areas, we have tried to counter the influence of the right wing forces particularly the religious fundamentalists groups. Several hundreds activists of LRC are busy in collecting funds locally and we are also encouraged by different responses from abroad. Political groups associated with Fourth International in several countries particularly in Netherlands and England have send us amount already, while several individual and Left groups efforts in US have brought some cash to the relief. From Sweden, we have already received information of 50,000 Swedish SKR and in Norway, an initiative by actor Toni Usman for a theater show on 19 September has already won support of Norway artist association with leading actors of Norway taking part voluntarily to help the campaign. In Australia, Socialist Alliance is helping to collect funds and APHEDA, the official Australian trade unions international assistance is collecting funds for LRC.

We had the great arrival of South Asians at Lahore relief camp to collect funds from Pakistanis. Social and peace activists from India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka came to Lahore and brought some amount from their own countries and contributed to LRC funds. They have brought with this a consciousness of South Asian solidarity in real terms.

We appeal to all our international friends to continue collecting funds for our future planned aid and political activities. Apart from the campaign on debts, we have decided to organize peasant rallies in Sindh and Punjab to demand land rights and an end of feudalism.

How to contribute

Contributions in Euros can be channelled via the ESSF based in France:

Cheques to ESSF in euros only to be sent to: ESSF 2, rue Richard-Lenoir 93100 Montreuil France

Bank Account: Crédit lyonnais Agence de la Croix-de-Chavaux (00525) 10 boulevard Chanzy 93100 Montreuil France ESSF, account number 445757C

International bank account details : IBAN : FR85 3000 2005 2500 0044 5757 C12 BIC / SWIFT : CRLYFRPP _Account holder : ESSF

The following two websites will direct money given via their donate buttons to this fund if you include the word Pakistan on the donation message.
By donating through these accounts the cost of the transfer of money to Pakistan is reduced.

If you wish to transfer funds directly, below are details of the account for sending money to the LRC.
A/C Title: Labour Education Foundation
A/C Number: 01801876
Please advise and pay to Citi Bank, New York, USA Swift CITI US 33 for onward transfer to BANK ALFALAH LTD., KARACHI, PAKISTAN A/C No. 36087144 and for final transfer to BANK ALFALAH LTD., LDA PLAZA, KASHMIR ROAD, LAHORE, PAKISTAN Swift: ALFHPKKALDA for A/C No. 01801876 OF LABOUR EDUCATION FOUNDATION.