Letter of Shamshair Ali

Oct 18, 2010
Shamshair Ali, General Coordinator of the Felix Baltistan Machulo Iñurrategi Foundation. Solidarity among peoples. The dramatic situation in Pakistan shows that ‘only people's organisations, those which are emerging and rooted in each community, are able to build strong affection between distant and different communities.’
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As is known, the situation in Pakistan is dramatic. Millions affected by floods and landslides, thousands of deaths and very serious risks of epidemics and starvation. Certainly the international community, UN organisations, and Government of Pakistan, despite serious difficulties, are mobilizing to respond to this disaster: broken families, lost crops, unused infrastructure, lack of energy, and so on.

However, there are entire towns and regions where the institutional support may not arrive, or arrive too late. I refer especially to many localities in the region of Karakoram: road closures, lack of food and fuel ...

Specifically, I want to tell what happened in the town of Thalis, in the region of Baltistan. On August 6 2010, the people of Thalis were devoted to the routine work of the land, as any normal day: picking up the last of the apricots, harvesting the wheat, gathering firewood, caring for the animals. It's time to store food for the gruelling winter ahead. Please note that here in the foothills of the Karakoram, every winter temperatures reach 15 to 20 degrees below zero.

During the afternoon and evening it was raining and at two in the morning of 7 August, the avalanche began as a flood of mud and huge rocks, many the size of houses, which took half the town ahead of it. There were shouts of those who first heard the noise and tried to alert the rest, but unfortunately 15 people were killed and five others were missing.

Thalis is just one kilometre from Machulo, where I live. When we went to Thalis, the situation was much more horrible than we imagined. We tried everything we could to rescue and care for the injured. In total, more than 50 houses were destroyed and more than 400 people affected. There was no housing, no land, no crops, no fruit, nothing to store.

On the initiative of the Felix Iñurrategi Foundation, local NGOs working in the Hushe Valley where Thalis Iocated and the Felix Baltistan Foundation located in the Basque country, my friend Ibrahim Rustam, organised 15 Machulu cooks, the same day as the disaster, to prepare hot food for all people in need. Afterwards, the Foundation dedicated a good portion of their funds to buy basic food, to ensure the maintenance for those affected for a month. It also has installed a field hospital and 25 shops.

The Foundation is taking responsibility for the process of rebuilding Thalis and the six other villages affected by floods in the valley. We are coordinating with other NGOs working in the area, local authorities and the mullahs of each village. We will organise the coordination plan over the next 6 months, which will channel aid arriving from different places.

Both these events require a brief reflection on solidarity between the peoples of the Earth. What happened demonstrates the strength and effectiveness of civil solidarity. It affirms the need to give much more importance to NGOs within the same society in terms of cooperation and development and the use of emergency aid. And not just when this was the only response, as in the case of Thalis, but also in other social situations where these organisations should work in unison and consensus with all institutions.

Only people's organisations, organisations set up and rooted in each community are able to feel, to live, the comradeship between peoples, are able to build close, strong affections between distant and different communities. I know that the Basque people strongly support our call for support, but I appeal once more to its traditional solidarity and ask you to help us. Going even further. Visit the website of the Foundation (www.felix-baltistan.org). They know how to do it. Heartfelt thanks.