The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
Contact: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

Disaster in Pakistan


Shingavi is an assistant professor of South Asian literature at the
University of Texas in Austin. He addresses several aspects of the
current crisis in his two-part interview with The Real News, "Why isn't the world rushing to rescue Pakistan?"

Mahmood was an editorial
cartoonist for Dawn, a national newspaper in Pakistan. He is now
internationally syndicated with the New York Times Syndicate. Mahmood
said today: "This is the biggest global disaster right now and the world
needs to unequivocally get behind Pakistan. The country needs to feel
they are an integral part of civil society and are not being
strung-and-sunk by misfit politicians and Islamist groups who are
hampering the aid process."

The Pakistani government is reportedly in talks with the IMF and
other international creditors. LeCompte is executive director and St.
Louis is deputy director of the Jubilee USA Network, an alliance of more than 75 religious denominations, human rights groups and development agencies.

LeCompte said today: "Pakistan must be able to mobilize all
available resources toward recovery. Instead of sending billions in debt
service out of the country, Pakistan should be able to invest those
resources in relief and recovery for its people. Furthermore, the
international community should provide grant support instead of new
loans that will push the country further into debt." See statement: "Jubilee USA Network Calls for Immediate Debt Service Moratorium in Response to Disaster, Assistance in Grant Form."

Jubilee Debt Campaign
(the UK affiliate) reports: "Pakistan's debt repayments already amount
to three times what the government spends on healthcare -- in a country
where 38 percent of under 5-year-olds are underweight, only 54 percent
of people are literate, and 60 percent live below the poverty line. The
United Nations says it has only raised 70 percent of the $460 million
called for in emergency aid by the institution. But even this amount
will be dwarfed by debt repayments unless serious relief is instituted.

"Pakistan's debt rose rapidly under the military regime of General
Musharraf (2001-8) from $32 [billion] to nearly $50 billion. In fact
campaigners point out that the vast majority of Pakistan's loans were
run up under military governments, many offering little benefit to
ordinary people. Pakistani groups like CADTM-Pakistan [Committee for the
Abolition of Third World Debt] have long called for an audit of the
debts, saying it is unjust for the poor of Pakistan to repay reckless
loans that borrowers should never have lent. The group is currently
calling on their government to repudiate its debts on the basis of a
'state of necessity.'"

A nationwide consortium, the Institute for Public Accuracy (IPA) represents an unprecedented effort to bring other voices to the mass-media table often dominated by a few major think tanks. IPA works to broaden public discourse in mainstream media, while building communication with alternative media outlets and grassroots activists.