By Mohammad Jamil
For Pakistan, year 2005 was one of the most calamitous years of its history, when the horrific earthquake devastatingly struck parts of the NWFP and Azad Kashmir, which was by any consideration a colossal catastrophe that left around 100000 dead and unimaginable loss to the infrastructure and property. A day like October 8, 2005 is remembered because of resolve shown by the nation, and particularly armed forces’ contribution towards saving the lives and property of the people during the epic-scale tragedy. Of course, the Armed Forces of Pakistan have always remained at the forefront in helping the countrymen when they faced natural calamity like floods, earthquake, or man-made calamity like terrorism. According to meteorological office, the October earthquake was 7.6 on the Richter scale; it was after 100 years an earthquake of such a high magnitude hit the Northern parts of the region.
In Azad Kashmir, Bala Kot, Muzaffarabad and adjoining villages, and in NWFP, Swat, Abbotabad, Shanglapar, Batgram and Mansehra were worst-hit areas. In fact, army officers and jawans always rush to the areas devastated by floods or earth quake. How irreversibly the lives of millions changed on this morning twelve years ago in the Northern Areas of Pakistan after the horrific earthquake hit the livelihoods of those living in the mountain ranges and valleys. According to UNICEF, over 16,000 children had died in schools on that fateful day, as they were crushed by the faultily constructed roofs of their 2, 3, 4 storey school buildings. Several thousands more had lost their limbs or the ability to walk or move again. Close to 3.5 million became homeless and without proper shelter; some 600,000 houses, 6,298 schools and 796 health facilities were destroyed, about 6,440 km of roads were damaged and infrastructure became non-operational.
As had happened in earlier calamities, the civil administration of federal capital was in a state of utter confusion and paralysis, and was found wanting in vision and the will to grapple with the situation. It is true that by definition, ‘disaster’ due to fire, floods, cyclones and earthquakes etc., is a sudden and an extremely unfortunate event that affects many people; but the October 2005 earthquake had exposed how unprepared was the civil administration for coping with emergencies. It had absolutely no plans for disaster management, which underscores the necessity of a meticulously worked-out standing operational plan for the civil administration with a view to facing the emergencies. Secondly, because of plundering of national resources by the inept governments and tax evasion by the traders and business community, enough revenues could not be generated to allocate funds for rescue operations.
However, immediately after the earthquake, the army had sent rescue and medical teams to areas cut off by the earthquake and roadblocks caused by landslides. In 2014, drought in Thar was yet another devastated episode in which Pak Army had quickly reached out to victims of Thar with rations, medicines and clothes. Teams of dedicated doctors and specialists had established camps in the deserts and offered quality services to save lives. Pak Army and its devoted teams had quickly reached Thar and committed themselves to helping the sick and ailing victims of drought. Media had projected the relief operation in general and meritorious services rendered by Pak Army in particular. The flood affectees in 2008 and Thar drought affectees in 2014 also paid tributes to army jawans
The 12th anniversary of the devastating earthquake of October 8, 2005 is being observed across the country. In Azad Kashmir, collective prayers will be held in all the quake hit districts of Azad Kashmir. One minute silence will also be observed at 08:53 am. Flag will fly half-mast on all public buildings of the state to mark the anniversary in Azad Jammu and Kashmir. Fateh Khawani and Quran Khawni are being offered for thousands of martyrs who lost their lives in this catastrophe in Azad Kashmir and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Functions and seminars are being held all over the country to pay tributes to the Pakistan Armed Forces, people and government of Pakistan, international community and in particular donor agencies for their unprecedented and generous contribution for relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction activities in the quake stricken areas of Azad Kashmir.