Today, the survivors of the 2005 earthquake measuring 7.8 magnitude on the Richter scale, are solemnly observing the eight anniversary that shook the whole of north Pakistan. The origin of this devastating earth quake was the border region between Pakistan and India. So severe was the earth quake of 2005, that its shock waves were felt even in Islamabad some 100-150 miles away. And an upscale high rise residential building, the Margalla Towers was transformed into a rubble of steel and concrete.
The town of Balakot, in the District Mansehra, Phkyber Pakhtunkhawa, a premier tourist summer resort was reduced into a rubble of rock and dust within a span of seconds. A s soon as the news was broadcast on the national and international media, pledges of monetary help and help in kind started arriving from countries around the world. And within seconds 38,000 people lost their precious lives while thousands became homeless. The most tragic fact was that as the earth quake took place at quarter to nine, most of the school children were busy studying in their class rooms and these same class rooms became their graves. The unfortunate residents of Balakot lost a whole generation of young children because of this devastating earth quake of 2005.
It portrayed a doomsday scenario, as people searched for their families, no one was aware of the whereabouts of the other, a mother didn’t know where were her children, a father was oblivious of his son, a wife was in search of her husband and a father his son. No Hollywood blockbuster portray what transpired in north Pakistan on that fateful day in October. The Pakistan army air lifted the seriously to critically injured to hospitals in Islamabad and Rawalpindi.
The government of Pakistan also made a lot of promises to the survivors back then and they are doing so at the eight anniversary of the 2005 earth quake; that the survivors would be looked after and they would be given monetary help to build their homes, a monthly stipend of Rs. 25,000 was fixed for each household and as a first step rescue efforts were initiated to find out any person who was buried alive under tons of steel and concrete. The second phase was to build a new city for these survivors of the earth quake of 2005 in Pakistan.
Aid agencies and international non-profit organizations including UNDP, from all over the world rushed to the scene of the disaster. Billions of dollars were pledged in help. But as time passed on it began to dawn on the survivors that all the promises by the government and the national and international aid agencies were a mere eye wash, to pacify the people for the time being, in order to avoid mass demonstrations. As even after the passage of eight long years nothing concrete has been done by the government to lessen the plight of the earth quake survivors of 2005 in north Pakistan.
Today, Oct. 8, is a day of reflection and offering prayers for the soul of all those innocent souls who lost their lives. But this mourning should not end at the mid night as the day of ninth October dawns, but this eight anniversary of the 2005 earth quake in Pakistan, should be etched in our hearts and souls , so that we can do, whatever, is in our power and resources to lessen the plight of these wretched souls.
An Op-ed written by: Iftikhar Tariq Khanzada