On the fault lines: A strong earthquake may wipe-out Pakistan from the earth




Pakistan has raised the death toll from the quake that rattled the country the day before, saying six people were killed. A provincial disaster management agency also says five others were injured in the temblor in northwestern Pakistan. It says 20 homes were damaged in Sunday’s magnitude-7.1 quake in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which borders Afghanistan. Initial assessments had only one fatality in the quake. The quake was centered near neighboring Afghanistan’s border with Tajikistan. Germany’s GFZ Research Center for Geosciences set the quake’s magnitude at 6.5. It was the strongest since October, when a magnitude-7.5 earthquake killed 280 people in Pakistan and damaged thousands of homes. Almost six days have passed without any significant measures taken to restore supplies to the area. Thousands of people have been rendered homeless, and at least 30 are still missing while hundreds could still be under rubble. The government has shifted around 150 foreign tourists out of the region but relief has been slow in coming as the political anger in the region has gone up. Opposition parties have begun to organise protests and press conferences against the government for ignoring their plight. Amidst the crisis, police arrested a member of the GB Legislative Assembly for attempting to ‘snatch relief goods’ and sent the MLA to the Anti-Terrorism Court. It seems bizarre that the priorities of the police in a time of crisis are to arrest a member of the fairly weak GBLA. With rain expected to continue till Tuesday, this is a serious humanitarian crisis in the making. The death toll is higher than the earthquake of October 2015 but the prime minister and key government officials have been conspicuous by their lack of comment, let alone leading relief efforts. This could be the most serious natural disaster to hit the Gilgit-Baltistan region in the last century. Given the strategic importance of the region to China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, the fact that the government has been unable to clear the routes to the area for over a week should be a major cause for concern. The only efforts being undertaken are by hundreds of local volunteers who are clearing up parts of the KKH on a self-help basis. Multiple institutions have failed to deliver, including the army, the bureaucracy, the PDMA, the NDMA and the regional and federal government. This is a tragedy that will only get worse before it gets better. Let us hope there are no further calamities due to the Sunday’s earthquake.