Aug 23, 2010

UNPO Members Join in Calling for Action on Indus Flooding

UNPO members representing Sindh, Balochistan, and Gilgit-Baltistan have spoken out about the devastation and loss of life from the flooding of the Indus River and urge for aid agencies to be given open access to affected areas

Below is a statement issued by the UNPO:

The Hague, 23 August 2010 – The floods that have claimed almost 1,500 lives along the course of the Indus River now threaten to make their devastating mark on the next generation, with almost 4 million children at risk from water borne diseases.  The lack of adequate material support from people all over the globe has illustrated the lack of trust and credibility in the Government of Pakistan (Civilian and Military Establishment). However, the outpouring of moral support from disenfranchised peoples as well many state governments has transcended political differences and been a display of true humanity.  The response by Islamabad continues to be tardy, inadequate and down right shameful.

The human tragedy unfolding could have been mitigated were it not for the poor planning and maintenance of the River Indus. Responsibility for this must be directed to Islamabad and the International Financial Corporations such as the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and OECD. These consortiums have encouraged and financed the construction of successive mega-dams without serious consultation, leading to long-term indebtedness. At a fraction of the cost of the mega-dams, the world’s largest canal system could have been locally managed and kept silt free. Instead, the canals have not been lined and have been allowed to silt up. Whilst the dams succeeded in drying out the floodplains - forcing people to migrate in search of water and to settle on dry river beds, hillsides have been stripped of vegetation, forests denuded and then not reforested, all under the corrupt and myopic eyes of federal authorities.

The people who know the river - from its northern reaches in Gilgit-Baltistan to its delta in Sindh - have not been able to exercise control over it.  Over the course of sixty years Islamabad has used mega-dams as a demonstration of the centralised state’s power.   Little remains of that power now, with only broken promises, feeble assurances, and a political space being successfully encroached by militant groups. 

Now, the focus must be on joining together to save lives and livelihoods. But with the waning of the waters must come the recognition that without autonomy and freedom to govern their own affairs, with revenues generated by their own resources, the nations of Sindh, Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan and other minority nations and peoples of Pakistan will neither prosper nor flourish, and instead are at risk of further and extreme economic and political subjugation. The corruption and callously elitist attitude of successive regimes (both Military and Civilian) have failed the nations that have inhabited the Indus valley; this wrong must be righted as soon as the waters wane, with the establishment of genuine political federalism.

Therefore, the signatories to this statement urge the National Disaster Management Authority to overturn without delay their ban on international donor agencies, aid organisations and non-government organisations from directly assisting the flood-affected people of Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan, and Sindh.  Similarly, the Pakistan and United States military authorities must open Jacobabad airport in northern Sindh to humanitarian aid flights if assistance is to reach 700,000 desperate flood victims in time.

Moreover, we call on the international community to foresee beyond their immediate aid commitments and demand that Pakistan’s government meaningfully engage with interlocutors and representatives from the UNPO member nations of Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan, and Sindh, instead of politicizing and militarising basic and legitimate demands of the people.


Humaira Rahman

General Secretary, World Sindhi Institute

Senator Sanaullah Baloch (rtd)

Information Secretary, Balochistan National Party

Abdul Hamid Khan

Chairman, Balawaristan National Front

Ngawang Choephel

President, UNPO

Marino Busdachin

General Secretary, UNPO