Pakistan: Multi-party conference demands debt cancellation, launches mass movement to refuse debt

 
[Readers can donate to help flood victims through the Labour Relief Campaign via the Australian trade unions' aid agency APHEDA at http://www.apheda.org.au/news/1281331224_14992.html.]

By Farooq Tariq

August 29, 2010 -- A multi-party conference in Lahore has decided to campaign for cancellation of Pakistan's crippling foreign debt and to organise mass rallies in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad. The first rally will be on September 2 in Islamabad.

The Labour Relief Campaign in association with Oxfam Pakistan called the conference on August 29, in Lahore, to discuss the issue of debt repayment in the post-flood scenario. It was chaired by Aman Kariaper and Ammar Ali Jan. Senator Hasil Bezinjo vowed to take the issue to Pakistan's Senate and present a resolution to demand that government refuse to pay the foreign debt.

Twenty-eight political parties, trade unions, social movements and professional associations were invited to present their views (listed below).

The conference began with Khaliq Shah, of the Campaign for the Abolition of Third World Debt, who argued that there are strong legal, ethical and political arguments for the immediate suspension of debt servicing and the refusal of further loans. He also presented historical precedents from Latin America and Africa to support his argument.

Debt, in his view, is not merely a financial but also a political issue. He pointed out that debt incurred by dictators is considered to be illegitimate debt under international law and its burden should not be borne by future generations. According to some estimates, he claimed, Pakistan’s debt has already been paid back at least eight times over. Hence, debt is an integral part of the system of re-colonisation prevalent in the Third World.

Aasim Sajjad Akhtar, academic, writer and activist of the Workers Party Pakistan, pointed out that the debt rescheduling touted by dictator Pervez Musharraf as his big success in 2008 will take debt as a percentage of Pakistan's GDP to more than 70%, thus approaching the 80% limit recognised by the World Bank as being unsustainable. He remarked that his group’s research indicated that up to 80% of Pakistan’s debt was incurred during dictatorial regimes. Elaborating on the political aspects of the campaign, Akhtar questioned the rationale of the heavy military budget, which, even in this time of acute crisis, is not being reviewed.

In the open discussion that followed, the debt issue and its political ramifications were debated by all the delegates present. Jamil Omar, president of the Awami Jamhoori Forum, suggested setting up a monitoring mechanism staffed and run by the network of activists represented in the conference, to ensure transparency and accountability in the spending of funds freed up by the cancellation of debt.

Senator Hasil Bizenjo of the National Party fully supported the idea of debt cancellation as a means of challenging the prevalent political order and offered to present a motion in the Senate to discuss the matter.

Advocate Abid Hassan Minto, president of the Workers Party Pakistan, presented a detailed analysis of the current socioeconomic situation and suggested the formation of a committee composed of like-minded political and social organisations that would build a political movement based on the demands emerging from the conference. Instead of accepting new loan offers, Pakistan must stand for the total and unconditional repudiation of its foreign debt. Time and again, countries facing tragedies, like Pakistan’s catastrophic flooding, are forced by international financial institutions and donor countries to mortgage their future as they borrow for relief and recovery efforts. Thus, the tragedy is magnified for years to come.

Speakers said that the recent floods are the worst disaster in Pakistan’s history. The country has been devastated from the northern areas to its southern tip. The state, stripped of its capacity to meet peoples’ needs by neoliberalism and militarism alike, has been found wanting -- both in its long-standing failure to maintain existing infrastructure, and in its response to the calamity.

The conference also discussed the negative impact of global climate change in Pakistan. Evidence is emerging that links these floods to rising atmospheric temperatures, and thus to climate change. Three-quarters of all carbon emissions have been produced by only 20% of the world’s population, and it is the poor in the developing world who are bearing the brunt of the resulting environmental degradation. The rich countries ought to offer urgent reparations to Pakistan as compensation for suffering the cost of others’ industrialisation.

Those who spoke at the conference included Raja Zulqernain, advocate general secretary of the Supreme Court Bar Association; Khurshid Ahmad, general secretary of the Pakistan Workers Confederation; Nasir Mansoor, deputy secretary of the National Trade Union Federation, Nazar Mengal of the Pakistan Trade Unions Defence Campaign; Karamat Ali, director PILER; Lal Khan, editor of the Asian Marxist Review; Ihsan Wain, advocate general secretary of the Awami National Party; former senator Tariq Choudry of Tehreek Insaaf; Nasir Shah, general secretary of the Labour Party Pakistan; MA Bhutta, senior vice-president of the Saraiki National Party; Ilyas Khan, secretary of the People's Lawyers Forum; Manzoor Gilani, president of the Istiqlal Party; Syeda Deep of the IPSS; IA Rehman, general secretary of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan; Farooq Tariq, coordinator of the Labour Relief Campaign; and Asad Rehman of the Sungi Development Foundation.

The following points were included in the conference resolution:

  • Immediate suspension of repayment of external debt.
  • Countries and donor institutions wishing to help Pakistan may do so in the form of grants, not loans. No more new loans.
  • Pakistan's military budget needs to be reviewed.
  • Setting up of an audit commission to conduct a public inquiry into Pakistan’s external debt. The commission should have constitutional cover.
  • Climate change reparations to be paid to Pakistan by industrialised countries.
  • A federal flood relief commission to be set up to oversee all relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction work in the wake of the floods.
  • Contact South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation secretariat for assistance and the acceptance of Indian support without any conditions.

It was decided at the conference to take the campaign to the masses and organise rallies in Lahore, Islamabad and Karachi. The first rally will be in Islamabad on September 2, 2010.

The Labour Relief Campaign was formed in 2005 after the devastating earthquake in Pakistan and is comprised of eight organisations. They are the National Trade Union Federation, Women Workers' Help Line, CADTM Pakistan, the Labour Party Pakistan, the Progressive Youth Front, Pakistan For Palestine, the Labour Education Foundation and the Pakistan Kissan Rabita Committee.

The Labour Relief Campaign has been busy organising and raising funds for flood victims and also launching a national campaign against payment of debt.

The following organisations were been invited to the conference.

1. National Party

2. Workers Party Pakistan

3. Istiqlal Party

4. Awami National Party

5. Saraiki National Party

6. Labour Party Pakistan

7. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf

8. National Trade Union Federation

9. Pakistan Trade Union Defence Campaign

10. Pakistan Workers Confederation

11. Joint Action Committee for People’s Rights

12. Supreme Court Bar Association

13. Pakistan Professors and Lecturers Association

14. Human Rights Commission of Pakistan

15. Khawateen Mahaz-e-Amal

16. Awami Jamhori Forum

17. South Asia Partnership

18. Sangi Development Foundation

19. Anjuman Mozaarein-e-Punjab

20. Labour Qaumi Movement

21. People Lawyers Forum

22. Asian Marxist Review

23. Pakistan Institute of Labour & Research

24. Pakistan Peace Coalition

25. Institute of Peace and Secular Studies

26. Jamhoori Publications

27. Aasha

28. Women Workers' Helpline

[Contact the Labour Relief Campaign at 25A Davis Road; Phone +042-36303808, +0300-8411945. Farooq Tariq is spokesperson for the Labour Party Pakistan. Email: labour_party@yahoo.com or visit http://www.laborpakistan.org or http://www.jeddojuhd.com.]

[Readers can donate to help flood victims through the Labour Relief Campaign via the Australian trade unions' aid agency APHEDA at http://www.apheda.org.au/news/1281331224_14992.html.]

Flood devastations in Pakistan, developing scenario and The Communist Party of Pakistan .

Destructions brought upon the natural habitat and environment by the profit thirsty capitalist system ,has geared drastic changes ,ruining the weather and natural climate .

Industrial gases ,automobile pollutions and radiations from the atomic Nuclear tests are few examples ,which has destroyed the protective ozone layer . The Industrial and mega cities wastes have badly contaminated ocean’s and rivers habitat ,which unnatural conditions subsequently instigating catastrophic environmental problems and havocs .

Katrina , Tsunami and the monsoon lethal rains ,flooding have unleashed utter devastations and calamities upon the world over .

In the prevailing conditions of continuous lethal monsoon rains, has brought upon the people of Pakistan a calamity of Biblical proportions ,and the flood has not only turned above 20 millions of people homeless ,but has forced them to migrate to far away areas . The houses built in years ,with stocks of daily use and food items ,including live stocks are inundated in too-to by the savage flood across the length and width of the country .

In the prevailing circumstances of mass migrations ,the out breaks of endemics of water born diseases and other health psychological conditions to arose are much prevalent to follow soon . News falling of tens of deaths daily ,has begun.

Around 02 Millions of children are to be direct effectee and victims of this havoc .

Pakistan is basically an agricultural country , approximately 15 billions worth $ USD crops and agricultural land is lost to the flood ,where damage caused by rains is above it to calculate .

90 % of the under water canals system, the only fertile agriculture land of province Pukhtoonkhwa is devastated by flood ,where the green built of Balochistan ( under water canal system ) is completely ruined .

Crops in 17 districts of Punjab and 19 districts of Sindh , have completely destroyed ,where in Punjab and Sindh collectively in 15 additional districts crops and agricultural land is partially destroyed .

The damage to the infrastructures is yet to be estimated ,only in the province of Pukhtoonkhwa its estimated to be around 19 billions worth PKR ,to repair .

In light of the aforementioned circumstances , Pakistan has reached at the verge of socio-economic total breakdown . The food crises will cast hard scars to Pakistan . A very negligible share in the economy of Pakistan belong to industrial sector and that’s too pathetically due to IMF policies ,quite fast its many major units are closing down and subsequently production declines .

All these estimates and calculations are just primitive at this point ,where the monsoon rains to continue at least for a month long further, per the weather prognosis .

This situation has just to aggravate further to the point of no return ,the already too fragile political situation in Pakistan . Due to the utter inability and incapability ,the elected government is totally discredited through the negative corporate media propaganda against it ,at the behest of the military establishment .

Public is absolutely frustrated over the aid and help activities at the government level ,where united nation through NGO’s has undertaken relief activities . The degree of corruption among these NGO’s is far beyond greater than the state institutions ,while the religious fanatic political parties ,and Jehadist organization already filthy abandoned in billions of dollars too at ease to execute any relief activity ,at times of disasters ,when people in distress too vulnerable to sympathetic hands ,they further their ideological and political agendas with greater comfort ,are now additionally showered with unprecedented amounts from the Gulf countries and the west ,through their already established institutions in those countries .

It was a shocking hot headlines over the electronic and print media ,when on 23rd august 2010 ,the US-Aid administrator paid visit to the relief camp of the UNO banned terrorist organisation of Jumat-u-Dawa ( JUD ) in the city of Sukker of Sindh province ,handing them over trucks of aid items and food stuff .

More over , the political Trotskyites groups , active in Pakistan ,have also established NGO’s bodies ,through which ,they too collect huge amounts of funds and assistance from abroad .

These relief activities ,have provided golden opportunity to the organizations and political denominations involved in relief works ,not only grab political pockets but it will cast very deep impacts over the political tandem of the country in future .

In this situation ,where Communist Party of Pakistan has faced to suffer since its inception ,beyond imagination every brutality ,which one cannot even trace to find in the medieval ages , at the hands of the state and has been called in the past as agents of India and ex-Soviet Union ,still prevails ,unprecedently ,rather more heinous and barbaric .

There was a too one sided negative propaganda against the Communist Party of Pakistan alleging it as anti state party ,which continues even today .

These have been the major obstacle for the Communist Party of Pakistan to get it-self established, organized at the gross root levels and its supporters have remained always in persistent phobia ,not to fall prey to the state agencies or Islamic fanatics mayhems.

Despite all these too difficult to describe odds , Communist Party of Pakistan not only stands to carry its class struggle activities but as well in wake of this calamity ,very courageously involved in helping the compatriots in the provinces of Pukhtoonkhwa ,Punjab and Sindh ,most devastated regions .

In this connection , Communist Party of Pakistan , reiterates to send its global appeal again to all the fraternal parties , supporters , individual comrades , philanthropists and compatriots ,at home and abroad to extend your helping hand to the Communist Party of Pakistan at this hour of greatest human tragedy and difficult times to resuscitate .

Your this comradely and human assistance will significantly help Communist Party of Pakistan to help its compatriots ,the downtrodden starving masses , victims of this calamity ,in a bit better way with difference ,relinquish their unprecedented miseries ad agonies .

You may send your donations to the relief fund of the Communist Party of Pakistan through following account number .

Account title # Imdadullah Qazi . PLS

NO # 0076-02-01-8749-9 , MCB ( MUSLIM COMMERCIAL BANK )

RISALA ROAD ,HYDERABAD CITY
PAKISTAN .

In case of any difficulties or some concerns you may please send through western union ,by informing us via email the MTC ( money transfer code ) on the party email address below ; cppak2003@yahoo.com

NB : For any details about the CPP flood relief operations , you may please directly contact comrade Imdad Kazi , the In-charge of the relief operations over his cell # 0092 3332714014

Dr .Syed Mazhar Hyder

International department .

Communist Party of Pakistan
Central Secretariat: D-168, Naseem Nagar Phase-III, Hyderabad, Sindh.
Phone: +92-22-2654531, Fax: +92-22-2654531, Mob: +92-333-2714014, +92-300-3065723,
E-Mail: cppak2003@yahoo.com Web: www.cppak.org

Geneva, 1 Sep (Martin Khor) - The flood calamity in Pakistan has again highlighted the urgent need to set up a proper global system to help developing countries affected by climate change and natural disasters.

Pakistan's crisis worsened in the past week, as the Southern region was also inundated by the floods which had started in the North and then spread to the Central region.
About a million people were evacuated in the Southern Sindh province in the past few days as the Indus River burst its banks in several places.

As the scale of the flooding increased, the estimates of costs of the damage and reconstruction also mounted. The Pakistani High Commissioner in London said that more than US$10 -15 billion is needed for reconstructing Pakistan. But that was two weeks ago, before the calamity affected new areas in the South.

The New York Times reported: “Even as Pakistani and international relief officials scrambled to save people and property, they despaired that the nation’s worst natural calamity had ruined just about every physical strand that knit this country together — roads, bridges, schools, health clinics, electricity and communications.

“The destruction could set Pakistan back many years, if not decades, further weaken its feeble civilian administration and add to the burdens on its military.”

The inundation extends for scores of miles beyond the banks of the overflowing Indus River and its tributaries, said Iqbal Zahid, a Pakistani Navy commander in charge of Sindh province's rescue operations. He said the infrastructure all the way from the northernmost Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province to the southernmost Sindh province is ruined and will take many years to rebuild.

According to the New York Times article, more than 20 million people are now affected. The government estimates that the floods have washed away 5,000 miles of roads and railways, 7,000 schools and over 400 health facilities.

Just to build about 500 miles of road in war-ravaged Afghanistan, the United States spent $500 million and several years. The US aid agency has spent $200 million to rebuild just 56 schools, 19 health facilities and other services since the earthquake in the Pakistani controlled portion of Kashmir in 2005.

The article cites a study from two US universities estimating the flood damage at US$7.1 billion. But this is probably an under-estimation. Another news report quotes a government estimate of damage at US$20-30 billion.

The Pakistan tragedy highlights the immense need for financing by developing countries to cope with extreme weather events, an increasing number of which are caused by climate change.

The developed countries have committed to pay for the cost incurred by developing countries to mitigate and adapt to climate change, under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that was signed in 1992.

However, this commitment has remained mainly on paper. The current climate negotiations are supposed to convert the paper commitment to reality.

This week, some Ministers have been invited to Geneva by the Swiss and Mexican governments to discuss climate financing.

The most basic issue, highlighted so dramatically in the Pakistan floods and the Haiti earthquake, is the obvious need for a proper system of assisting countries affected by climate-related disasters.

At present, there is no predictable or reliable system. The affected countries simply have to rely on charity and donations. The funds promised are usually far too little, and even less of that is eventually paid.

Thus the climate talks have to produce a proper institutional financing system, and at the top of the agenda is the setting up of a new Climate Fund. Developing countries want it to be under the authority of the UNFCCC, and not come under the control of the World Bank that they have bad experiences with.
Another key issue is the amount of funds needed, for mitigation, adaptation, technology and capacity building.

For mitigation (measures to prevent climate change), the World Bank's World Development Report 2010 has estimated that: “In developing countries mitigation could cost US$140 to US$175 billion a year over the next 20 years (with associated financing needs of US$265 to US$565 billion).”

A study in India by the Centre for Science and Environment concludes that the additional cost of generating power from renewable technologies in a low-carbon strategy compared to business-as-usual until 2030-31 is estimated at US$203 billion or about $10 billion a year.

For adaptation (measures to cope with the effects of climate change), there are various estimates of financing needs. Most studies are limited in scope (because they leave out several sectors and activities) and thus in their cost estimates.

A World Bank report estimates developing countries need up to US$100 billion a year for adaptation. This is higher than the estimate in the UN climate convention secretariat report that estimates the cost at US$27-66 billion a year.

The most comprehensive study is by scientists led by Martin Parry, former Co-Chair of the adaptation working group of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The study found that the UNFCCC report had underestimated adaptation costs in sectors it studied and also it left out many sectors.

If under-estimation is corrected in sectors studied, the real cost would be $68-165 billion a year. And if we also include some areas left out in the UNFCCC report (such as damage to ecosystems and damage from weather events), the total adaptation financing needed by developing countries could total $630 billion a year.

Financing is also needed for climate technology. The UNFCCC's technology expert group reported that the finance needs for technology are US$300-1,000 billion a year.

Of this total, developing countries are estimated to have additional funding needs of US$182 – 505 billion a year, for deployment and diffusion of technology. This seems to be an under-estimate as the report controversially assumes the developing countries do not need research and development or technology demonstration, activities confined only for developed countries.

Thus, the amount needed annually by developing countries to combat climate change (US$600 billion for mitigation, another US$600 billion for adaptation, and US$500 billion for technology) is high indeed, and this does not yet take into account the payment for climate debt (over-using of the atmospheric space by developed countries in the past and present).
The promises so far by developed countries (US$10 billion a year in 2010-12 and up to US$100 billion a year by 2020) are very little, compared to what is needed.

As the Pakistan flood tragedy shows, the damage caused by climate change and weather events can be very high. The challenges in preventing the calamities and managing them when they happen are also very great.

The financing system and the amounts of financing have now to be discussed seriously so that developing countries can have a chance of surviving, let alone developing, in future.

Submitted by Terry Townsend on Wed, 09/08/2010 - 13:02

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September 1, 2010 -- The Jubilee South-Asia/Pacific Movement on Debt and Development (JS-APMDD) joins the international community in expressing deep solidarity with the people of Pakistan who continue to suffer from the devastating floods that has so far claimed more than a thousand lives, left four million people homeless and damaged 7.9 million acres of farmland and other economic structures. Not only did the floods wreak havoc to lives and property, it also intensely exacerbated the already dire situation of the Pakistani people.

The JS-APMDD together with all its member organizations throughout the Asia-Pacific joins in the call for repudiation and cancellation of the debts claimed from Pakistan.

It is urgent that the government of Pakistan is to repudiate all illegitimate debts, especially those which were incurred during the military dictatorships that spanned for decades, and use the freed funds for relief and rehabilitation Notably, one-third of the Pakistani budget is spent on debt servicing. This meant $3 billion in 2009.

International lenders should immediately and unconditionally cancel all debts claimed from Pakistan. It is condemnable that international financial institutions are asserting that this is the most opportune time for Pakistan to borrow funds in order to rebuild and upgrade the devastated economy. While the country is suffering human, social and cultural impacts of floods, these institutions are tempting the Pakistani government to accept new loans. These new loans will lead to further expansion of international lenders’ influence and pressure on Pakistan’s economy and will multiply the debt burden of the people.

We are also reminded of lessons and experiences in the aftermath of the tsunami of 2004 December when the International Financial Institutions used the relief and rehabilitation process in several Asian countries to hasten the privatization of essential services such as water, related infrastructure and public lands. This must not be allowed to happen again in the wake of the disaster in Pakistan.

We join our Pakistan colleagues in calling on peoples organizations, movements and civil society groups to pressure northern governments and international financial institutions to cancel debts claimed from Pakistan, stop them from pushing more loans and exploiting the situation to advance their vested interests, and instead mobilize financial reparations to be used for relief and rehabilitation efforts that are designed and led by the people of Pakistan themselves.

Lidy Nacpil
Coordinator
Jubilee South - Asia/Pacific Movement on Debt & Development (JSAPMDD)
Telefax 632-9253036
34 Matiyaga Street, Central District, Quezon City, Philippines 1100