The Trade Union Rights Campaign Pakistan/Kashmir (TURC) started its relief campaign on 9 October, establishing three relief centres in Lahore to collect food, blankets, warm clothes and donations for the earthquake victims in Kashmir and the Hazara region of North West Frontier Province (Pakistan). The TURC immediately started a campaign in Kotli, Kashmir, to send aid to Rawla, Kot and Bagh. So far, thirty six tons (40,000 kg) of food and other material has been delivered.
Azad Qadri, National Organising Secretary of the TURCP, went immediately to Bagh after the devastating earthquake. Jointly with the Trade Union Rights Campaign Kashmir (TURCK), a camp was set up in Bagh to properly organise relief work. A meeting was organised of the main trade unions in Lahore to co-ordinate aid, with representatives of 21 different unions attending, including railway workers, telecom workers, postal workers, bank workers, paramedics and others. It was unanimously decided in the meeting to form a trade union relief camp under the banner of the TURCP.
TURCP members launched its earthquake campaign in their respective trade union branches and got an excellent response, not only in the workplaces, but also in working class communities. In just two days, TURCP members collected enough supplies and money to send two containers to earthquake hit areas in Kashmir and in the Hazara region.
In total, seven truckloads of food, blankets, medicines, tents, warm clothes, water and hygienic soap were sent to the earthquake zones in Kashmir and in NWFP. The
Trade Union Rights Campaign provided relief and aid to 10 villages in the Bagh district, high in the mountains, with a population of 20,000 people. An estimated 1,300 people in two districts of NWFP were also given aid and relief by the TURCP. Five trucks were sent to Bagh and two to the Bat Gram and Shangla districts, in the Hazara region.
Tragically, seven members of the TURCP died during the earthquake, in different areas of Hazara. Other TURCP members lost loved ones. Azad Qadri, one of the main leaders of the telecom workers’ strike in May-June, 2005, and also national organizing secretary of the TURCP, lost 34 close family relatives in this devastating earthquake. Indeed, many TURC members lost members of their family and four even lost their whole family. Despite so many deaths of relatives, TURC members played a key role in providing aid and rescue to many people. They worked day and night for several days, without any sleep or rest, to provide aid and food to thousands of people.
The main focus of the TURC is on 10 villages in the Bagh district of Kashmir. There are no school or health facilities left in these mountain villages, as all the schools and basic health units were destroyed. There were only three basic health units still standing in the 13 villages in the area. Twenty two schools were destroyed.
New schools and hospitals
The Trade union Rights Campaign Kashmir/ Pakistan decided to set up five schools in these 10 villages, to re-start education for students. The TURC will provide all the resources and materials needed to establish the schools, which will be managed and co-ordinated by a democratically elected body called the ‘Workers’ Relief and Rehabilitation Committee of Bagh’. The Committee was formed to co-ordinate and run the relief work of the TURC. TURC (Kashmir) is also providing paramedics and medicine to the District Headquarters Hospital in Bagh.
The Kashmir Paramedical Staff Association is closely working with the TURCK to provide health facilities in the remote areas and together they are setting up three basic health units in the mountains, to cover at least 28,000 people.
The TURCP is very grateful to all the trade unions, individual members, trade union branches and workers internationally for their precious financial help to provide food, clothes, blankets, tents and medicines to people hit by the earthquake. This money enabled the TURC to save the lives of many people and also to provide them with food and shelter.
Continued financial assistance will enable the Trade Union Rights Campaign to set up schools and health units. More funds are needed to help trade union activists and workers to do relief and rehabilitation work in the Hazara region, including setting up five schools and three basic health units. These schools and health units will be under canvass, to begin with, as the reconstruction of schools and hospitals will take several years.
This solidarity action shows workers’ internationalism in practice. Financial assistance is vital to re-build the trade union movement in the areas hit by the earthquake. You can be sure that workers in Pakistan and Kashmir will never forget this global workers’ aid during their moment of need.