On Friday, October 14, Comrade Manzoor Ahmed, Member of Parliament and PTUDC president, held a press conference at the Lahore Press Club announcing the launching of the PTUDC solidarity caravan, called “The Revolutionary Solidarity Caravan”, that will leave from his constituency in Kasur on Monday for Kashmir. The solidarity caravan will be comprised of over 20 trucks and will pass through villages and towns along the way to Kashmir collecting further supplies and support. Manzoor will be personally present on the caravan and has been working tirelessly to raise money, support, and supplies to help the working class and poor victims of the earthquake.
He also announced that supplies and support will be received from India. Several MPs will be coming to Pakistan with supplies, medicines, and financial support, including 500 pints of blood, which should be arriving before the caravan leaves. The MPs from India will be received by Manzoor and members of the PTUDC at the border. The only problem will be with the Pakistani authorities, who may not let them enter the country. If they are allowed into Pakistan, they will definitely not be allowed to enter Pakistan-controlled Kashmir. However, they will join the caravan and will be taken along the route through nine cities on the way to Kashmir.
The caravan will pass through Kasur, to Lahore and pass through at least seven more cities on the way to Rawalpindi. At this point the caravan will split into 3 sections. Each section of the caravan will go to one of the three cities devastated in Kashmir - Muzafferabad, Rawlakot, and Bagh – where the PTUDC has established refugee camps. As the caravans arrive into Kashmir the refugee camps will become the centres of activity of our relief operation. Tents have already been sent and set up for people left with no shelter, and all food, water and medicines will be sent to the camps. Doctors will also be present to help those in need. The PTUDC is also organising defence committees to defend against looting, arson, and the fundamentalists. It is expected that the caravan will arrive on Tues or Wednesday, but no one can be exactly sure due to the conditions of the roads.
Manzoor also outlined his transitional programme and demands for victims of the earthquake, lashing out at the Pakistani state, which has utterly failed to cope with this disaster.
The following is the list of demands presented by Manzoor:
- Establishment of people’s relief and rehabilitation committees, that should be formed on a volunteer basis, to oversee rescue, relief and rehabilitation operations.
- A 25 % “Zalzala Tax” (Earthquake Tax) on the profits of all multinationals, capitalists and feudal lords of Pakistan, so that this money can be used in rescue, relief and rehabilitation of the affected areas.
- Establishment of an emergency programme for access to basic human needs like safe drinking water, health, education, and electricity, so that basic utilities could be provided to victims in a swift and prompt manner.
- Cancelling of all taxes in Earthquake affected areas for all peasants and workers.
- Either jobs for the unemployed youth in the affected areas, or a Rs 5000/- (US $ 80) per month unemployment allowance should be paid.
- All rehabilitation /reconstruction should be supervised by Panchayats (i.e. people’s councils) abolishing the contracting system. Reconstruction activities should be under the democratic control of the Panchayats on a voluntary basis.
- Supply of free electricity, natural gas, and oil for victims.
- Learn the lessons from the impotence and failure of the ruling clique and the devastation suffered by the masses at the hands of their system. The class struggle should be organized and sharpened towards a victorious socialist revolution.
The situation in Pakistan and Kashmir is desperate. Today the government officially announced the end of rescue operations, and now plan to provide aid and relief to the survivors. One of the real problems is that the Pakistan army is taking over all the aid and distribution. As we have explained since the disaster took place, the Pakistani state is incapable of dealing with this disaster. Capitalism has failed the people of the subcontinent, and has left the millions of people affected by this disaster, two million of whom are now homeless, out in the cold with no food, water, medicine, and shelter.
The already weak Pakistani infrastructure has collapsed and will be incapable of providing decent and efficient aid and relief to the millions who need it. The PTUDC has launched it’s own relief effort in response. Our relief operation in Pakistan has done wonders in a very short space of time in extremely difficult conditions. We have sent tents, clothes, medical supplies, as well as a team of doctors to our camps in Kashmir to assist the poor and working class victims of the earthquake. The Revolutionary Caravan will be arriving next week from Pakistan with supplies and aid. But more must be done!
The resources of the PTUDC are stretched beyond all limits. Our international financial appeal has raised money to help pay for all of the supplies and the relief effort. All monies raised are going directly to our relief efforts – the sending of more clothes, food, water, medicines, and doctors etc. to our camps in Kashmir. But we need more! The response has been excellent, but we must keep the cash coming in! Our relief and aid work has only just begun! We need to plan and organise more activities and this will require more money. We need to raise the money to purchase more supplies and to send more caravans! We must maintain our camps and maintain a supply of food and water! It has been nearly a week since the earthquake struck the region, and the people who have survived are desperate. Every penny counts and will go a long way in helping those who need it most. We appeal to our brother and sisters, the trade unionists and workers in the UK, Europe and North America and all around the world to give as much as they possibly can to help the workers and poor who have been devastated by the disaster.
Saqlain Shah, PTUDC in Lahore
For more information on how to make a donation please see:
Pakistan earthquake: an appeal for the Kashmiri workers