Balochistan’s Earthquake Victims Await Help

Many victims continue to wait for proper treatment after a powerful earthquake struck Pakistan’s remote south-west province of Balochistan.

Baloch children waiting for assistance after the September 24, 2013 earthquake. Photo courtesy of the author.

Baloch children waiting for assistance after the September 24, 2013 earthquake. Photo courtesy of the author.

QUETTA, Pakistan — Military check points after every kilometer from Uthal to Awaran, strict security checking, worst road infrastructure and security threats have increased problems for Balochistan’s Awaran district which was struck by a 7.7-magnitude quake in September, toppling thousands of mud-built homes.

While the National Disaster Management Authority and Pakistani Army claim to have supplied the earthquake victims of the most remote and troubled district of Awaran with adequate food, thousands of quake victims in Tehsil Mashkey, Tarteej and the Nookjo area of Pakistan’s south-west province of Balochistan are still waiting for first aid help.

During my talks with locals affected by the quake, they told me that assistance teams have not reached the majority of victims of Mashkey that killed more than 100 hundred people including women and children.

An official of the Provincial Disaster Management Authority on the condition of anonymity said that relief efforts are underway by the Balochistan government with the help of Non Governmental Organizations, but he said that NGOs complained of the Frontier Corps and paramilitary forces hatred toward them. He said that the military has sealed off the area for every kind of movement since it was jolted by the powerful tremors.

Locals rejecting help from government and military forces said that when the earthquake struck Awaran and surrounding areas not a single doctor was present in the district’s main hospital. They said that the only available facility was a rural health center operated by a lone dispenser, barely able to cater to the injured. This resulted in more casualties, which could have been avoided if  prompt medical help reached in time.

“Doctors and medicines had yet to reach residents of Nookjo, Maalar and Tarteej which were destroyed by a powerful earthquake in last month as majority of people suffer from several diseases there,” said Mohammad Yasin, the district coordinator of a Awaran-based NGO called The Helping Hand for carrying out relief work.

While locals from the Awaran district said that help had not reached the affected areas of Mashkey, the Baloch Welfare Committee and Edhi Foundation provided limited support to the people of Mashkey Tehsil.

“No help has been carried out by military forces and no step has been taken by government for the provision of medical aid to the quake victims of Mashkey,” said Dr. Mannan Baloch, a leader of the outlawed Balochistan National Moment. Dr. Baloch added that the Frontier Corps were humiliating the people in public and blocking all aid being carried out by NGO’s for the earthquake victims.

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“We need food and drinking water desperately. People are suffering badly due to mosquitoes. It will take weeks for us to rebuild our houses. But for that we need help and unfortunately no one has come to help us,” 70-year-old Shah Bibi said while shifting her household toward a safe place. Bibi said most families were taking shelter in the rugged mountains.

“We have to use the bathroom of our neighbor whose home is not that much affected. I have to cook under open sky in the souring heat as we have lost our kitchen,” she said when asked how she fulfilled her family’s daily needs. “I only got some rice and some packs of instant noodles from the Baloch Welfare Committee engaged in welfare work in Mashkey,” she said in a trembling voice.

Relief Aid to Baloch quake victims. Photo courtesy of the author.

“The earthquake has ruined us, we have nothing left. Our houses have been damaged. We are living under constant fear and terror. Meanwhile, the Frontier Corps daily raids and firing in nearby mountains is another big issue that is confronting us,” Omera Bibi another quake victim from Mashkey who has just arrived in Awaran told me.

She alleged that security forces deployed in the Mashkay area were not only abducting youths but also harassing the relief workers. However the Pakistani Army rejects these allegations.

Agreeing with Omera Bibi, a senior leader of the ruling National Party who also wished to be unnamed confirmed the military operation in the area and alleged that it has launched a massive operation in Mashkay under the guise of “relief operations.”

“I have solid proof and people from the area have told me that, instead of rehabilitation of earthquake victims in the area, the Frontier Corps has initiated an operation in the Gajjar area of Mashkey,” He added.

Previously, Balochistan National Moment leader Dr. Mannan Baloch said that soldiers have abducted more than 25 youths in Mashkay on the day of Eid al-Adha but Balochistan government sources could not be reached for a confirmation.

Kiyya Qadir Baloch is a freelance Baloch journalist associated with the Daily Times based in Islamabad. He reports on foreign affairs, Baloch insurgency, militancy and sectarian violence in Balochistan.

  • abdul sattar

    balochistan is one of a mineral rich region with a very strategic and significant location desperately lacking coverage in main stream media,this tract of land is inflatterd by religious extremists and jihadi militants which reqiires vigilant communication to the world .

  • Abdul Sattar

    A very constructive and informative piece, we want more such sort of informative articles from Balochistan, Its a very important piece of land with its important geo-political location, This region is mostly ignored by mainstream and intl media.