As the death toll from the devastating earthquake shoots up in Kashmir and North West Frontier Province in Pakistan, capitalist greed and the drive for profits have become dominant in the relief and rescue work. The Socialist Movement and Trade Union Rights Campaign strongly condemn this inhuman and cruel attitude and practice. The private sector has started to make big profits. The Musharraf government has proved its incapability and incompetence in this rescue operation. Transport companies are charging 100% more fares for the hire of transport trucks to take aid to the affected areas. The prices of tents and blankets have tripled over the last two days. The prices of food stuff have also been doubled by profit takers. This shows the real nature and character of capitalism. Most of the owners of the haulage companies say they have no trucks available – mainly because they can make bigger profits by transporting goods for commercial contracts.
Socialists are against the capitalist system because it bases itself on profits and not on the needs of masses. This clearly can be seen in this disaster. No truck has left Lahore for the last two days to go to the affected areas. So aid is waiting to be dispatched in the relief camps that have been set up all round Lahore and there is enormous need in the affected areas but no transport is available. The government has failed to check this disgusting profit taking. That is because the government represents the interests of exactly the same profit takers who are exploiting people’s suffering.
We have been told over the years by successive governments that we should not oppose the privatisation of services and industries because private sector will take care of us. However, the crisis following the earthquake has shown how false this propaganda was. Big business never can take care of people because is only interested in profits. Ordinary working class people are donating whatever they have, but on the other hand the businessmen and industrialists are busy making big profits. The state-run Pakistan Railways is running free trains to transport the relatives of affected people to their home towns and villages but the private transport companies are charging 3 to 4 times more for their fares. This situation clearly demands a change in the system. We need a system which should work for working masses and poor not big business. Socialism is the only system which works only for the working class and poor.
We demand that
- The food and other relief aid should be distributed through the local committees consisting of trade union activists, political workers and students.
- The government should immediately launch a major operation to rescue the injured and clear the rubble.
- All the big industries and services should immediately be nationalized and put under the democratic control of workers to smoothly run the rescue, relief and rehabilitation of the affected people.