Kashmir Crisis Enters Critical Phase
The news from Kashmir, where 80,000 survivors of the earthquake now face severe winter weather and problems of food and shelter, is not good. The UN High Commissioner on Refugees is complaining about lack of resources. Let’s make a last push with the US Congress.
A Hill staffer writes:
“After an impressive donor conference where more than $5.8 billion was pledged little has been given so far. Furthermore, only 25% of the $550 million the UN has asked for in immediate humanitarian needs have been appropriated. Liberal Members of Congress who would normally speak out on this matter are bogged down with domestic issues such as alternative minimum tax, Iraq War, Katrina, and scandals in the WH and the Hill.
The one disturbing fact here is the Pakistani governments muted response to this impending disaster since the donor conference. Not one government official is actively asking for immediate needs funding,
even though three million are homeless and hundreds of thousands live in the snow line (which is 10 feet of snow!)
It appears that the US and Pakistan governments have conspired not to give immediate needs funding. Insiders close to the Pakistani government say relief money will not be used for earthquake victims but rather for political pet projects similar to Senator Steven’s highway to nowhere. The US is happy to give all monies to reconstruction; where US contractors can get rich (sounds familiar).
Some have speculated that the US will give Pakistan a carrot in a free trade area (in ’06) to quiet them.
Moreover, the Republicans in Congress will not divert any defense appropriations to humanitarian aid. They do not want to hurt the feelings of DOD contractors (who give them campaign cash hand over fist). The plan is to wait for the next Iraq supplemental, which has been postponed to sometime in February 2005.
Therefore, our only hope is that the Administration will realize that tens of thousands of Kashmir’s dying will not help the US’s image in the Muslim world. They will need to divert some economic or military aid. The President Bush has the lone power to do this.
Oxfam has written a good article on what we can ask President Bush to do.
We need to act now. The Congress is only open for one more week. We will come back to DC in February after the State of the Union. It would be quite helpful if your readers can contact their Congressman, Senator, or the President and let them know we are outraged at the lack of financial response. The Congress switch board is 202.224.3121 and the WH switch board is 202-456-1111. (Unfortunately, many prominent Pakistani-Americans are currently in Kashmir trying to save lives instead of lobbying their Member of Congress to do the right thing). We need to tell them to fully fund the immediate needs of the Kashmiris.
In the 21st century there is no excuse to let anyone to freeze to death, especially in a strategic ally such as Pakistan.