Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Pakistan army has ‘won a lottery’

Pakistan army has ‘won a lottery’
Dr Shabir Choudhry 10 April 2006

Earthquake has destroyed everything, but ‘Pakistan army has won a lottery’. These were the words of an Islamabad based Pakistani journalist who came to London about a month after the most destructive earthquake in South Asia.

I have known this journalist for many years and find him very sincere and informed person. We had a number of meetings in London and discussed various issues related to Pakistan, Kashmir and the earthquake.

He was of the opinion that Pakistan’s most problems are related to army and feudalism. He said army had ‘commercialised and ‘legalised politics and corruption’. In his view Pakistan army is the only army which has many retired and serving generals as millionaires.

Afghan war or more precisely America’s war which Pakistan managed and controlled in name of ‘Jihad’ produced a number of army millionaires. When Russians withdrew from Afghanistan, this ‘jihad’ changed its characteristics and target. It continued in Afghanistan where Muslims killed other Muslims and yet claimed it a ‘Jihad’; as far as controlling elite were concerned it still produced some Afghan and Pakistani millionaires.

Change of target from Russia or Afghanistan to Jammu and Kashmir also proved very ‘profitable’ to those who have taken this struggle as a lucrative business; and have joined millionaire’s league. Although we Kashmiris have lost more than fifty thousand people, but a few will find some consolation that ‘jihad’ in Kashmir has also produced some Kashmiri millionaires.

The earthquake has brought destruction, misery and suffering; it has also shown sacrifice, dedication and perseverance of people struggling to cope with natural tragedy and greed of their fellow human beings. Some people with criminal mind have looted, sold items designated for quake victims and even kidnapped helpless women and children.

It is alleged that some government officials and some men in uniform were also involved in this ‘evil business’ of looting and selling relief items. During this time when that Pakistani journalist was here in London we saw some disturbing reports alleging some Pakistani army men selling tents and other items. We also saw reports that authorities turned blind eye and some help sent by international donors ended up in hands of religious groups, which helped them to enhance and strengthen their position in the area.

This journalist said, while he saluted great help and concern shown by majority of the people and army men in general, he strongly condemned those who were involved in this ‘evil trade’. In order to prove his point he had some clippings of the Pakistani papers. He said, ‘this disaster is like a lottery for Pakistan army, and they will make most from this, and we will see some more millionaires in uniform’.

I was tempted to write on this but decided not to because I didn’t want my opponents to accuse me for being ‘anti Pakistan’. Any Kashmiri who dares to criticise deeds of Pakistani government or Pakistani army is perceived as ‘anti Pakistan’; and in worst case scenario ‘pro India’. Since the earthquake I have received many phone calls and emails from Azad Kashmir informing me about problems with the relief work and what ‘lies’ have been told in name of helping victims of the disaster.

Apart from that JKLF and Kashmir Awami Foundation teams also visited affected areas and provided help and support. I am office bearer in the both organization, and they also told me many disturbing stories. Officers of these NGOs have confirmed the above stories. Out of many emails and verbal stories I am producing two email letters to show the extent of problem seen by some local people:

Dear Dr.Shabir Sahib Assalam-o-Alaikum
Actually they submitted the report to donors that army built 2,95000 shelters in earth quack hit areas of Azad Kashmir, and charged 65000 per shelter from the amount donated by international community in the name of Kashmir. Fact is this, all these shelters in Azad Kashmir are built by NGOs like Midair,NRSP, UNDP, Islamic Relief, APNA Sahara Trust, and individuals from Kotli and Mirpur. They even unloaded hundreds of trucks of relief goods sent by the people of Pakistan and Kotli Mirpur, but did not distribute to affectees.
They must be exposed to donors. They are planning to plunder the remaining amount
Please, write to US UK and UN to monitor the process of reconstruction. All the cement and steel producers (Ex-generals and Punjabi Land lords) have raised the price by 50 percent as they know the seven hundred houses and government buildings are going to be constructed. Actually generals and landlords have made cartel to suck the blood from the veins of earth quack victims.

You claim to be brave and honest I will wait and see if you have courage to write on this topic. (Name withheld for security reasons.)

This email was sent to me by a Kashmiri journalist on 20th March 2006. A similar email was sent to me by another journalist on 5th April 2006, and I have no reasons to doubt sincerity of these people as I have personally known them for some years. Relevant excerpts of the second email are also produced below:

Dear Dr. Shabir Choudhry Sahib
I hope you are well. Sir, please write on this issue, I am sending you some facts.

‘Pakistan army has claimed to built three hundred thousands shelters of CGI sheets in earthquake affected areas of Azad Kashmir, and charged 65000 rupees per shelter from the international community. But fact is this, on ground not a single shelter made by army in Azad Kashmir, and they claimed the shelters made by some NGOs and Kashmiri people belong to Mirpur in their own account. Same was the case in distribution of relief of goods. They distributed all blankets and tents given by foreign countries to the soldiers. In this regard five thousands Korean blankets seized by MI (Military Intelligence) at Kohala from three army vehicles and arrested 150 soldiers including a Captain and some JCOs Actually these blankets were given to them for distribution in Bagh area of Azad`Kashmir Recently General Pervez Musharaf promised to pull out army from rehabilitation and reconstruction process with International NGOs, but GHQ resisted on this and compelled him to cancel has decision. They also plunder huge amount in compensation amount in affected areas’.

OK Allah hafiz. (Name withheld for security reasons)

I was disturbed by reading details of this email because according to this, victims of the earthquake were exploited; and some people in position were determined to fill in their coffers by every possible means. Despite this I decided not to write on this as I thought may be he is trying to provoke me to write on this, but when another journalist wrote more or less same things it confirmed some published and unpublished reports about this situation.

This was also in line with what I was told by JKLF and KAF teams who had returned to UK after visiting the affected areas. There were other independent people who had gone to the disaster hit area and came back with horrifying stories. In view of this I thought it was only appropriate that I also highlight the issue through my sources and join those who are engaged in this jihad of helping people and bringing out truth.

Thousands of good people from Pakistan, Azad Kashmir and around the globe have worked very hard and under very difficult conditions to help and save lives; and I wholeheartedly salute them, but I cannot resist criticising those who have tarnished the good work because of their greed and callousness. Good people in Pakistan army and in Pakistani administration need to be more vigilant that they can ensure transparency and just distribution of goods.

Apart from that they want to curb excess greed of those who supply goods needed to construct shelters and houses. It would be a good idea to encourage local business people to set up small industries that housing construction goods and other items could be produced locally. It will not only strengthen local economy and trade, but will also give boost to the morale of suffering people as this will give them sense of achievement.

If no attention is paid to this side of construction and rehabilitation then my fear is that we will see an army of destitutes and beggars in Azad Kasmir who will always look across the Kohala and towards NGOs for help and support.

Writer is a Chairman Diplomatic Committee of JKLF, Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs and author of many books on Kashmir. He could be reached at:

1 comment:

AR mirza said...

Fantastic post keep the good work

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