By an anonymous Pakistani activist
September 8, 2022
Workers in southern and north-western Pakistan have been devastated by severe flooding over the last several weeks. Thirty-three million people are affected, mainly being displaced, by what may be the worst flooding in the history of Pakistan. The official death count from the floods is at about 1,400 people; unofficially, the estimate is over 4,000 dead. There is nothing natural about the scope of this disaster. The blame is squarely on capitalism. Namely, climate change, mass poverty and neglect of developing infrastructure, all caused by the drive for ever increasing profit at the expense of the working class. Many reforms, like decent housing and new sewers, would save many lives and spare many workers the loss of their homes, but those reforms seem like a distant impossible dream. In fact, the situation keeps repeating and will continue to worsen as capitalist crises only get more severe.
Worsening climate change brought heavier rains than usual into this region which destroyed the homes and belongings of millions of poor workers, who the capitalist system sees as expendable. Many of those displaced and killed were among the millions of workers in Pakistan who were forced out of the countryside by the abject poverty of the agricultural system under capitalism that leaves small farmers on their own. Recent droughts, also worsened by climate change, left family farmers in the impossible position of staying on their barren land to starve or heading into the cities to find work at poverty wages (ARY News, 9/2). These workers were forced by the conditions to settle on the banks of rivers, among the riskiest places to live but one of the few ways in the cities for the working class to have access to water.
Infrastructure in the poor areas of the cities has not been invested in at all. Karachi, a city of 25 million people, which was severely affected, is relying on sewer pipes laid 100 years ago when the population was 200,000 (ARY News, 9/2). The death and displacement of the floods became an inevitability. Add to this deadly mix the bribery and nepotism that are part and parcel of a system based on accumulating wealth. For instance, a government program to ostensibly plant one billion trees along river banks as a flood prevention tool became a handout to government cronies who ransacked the program to put money in their pockets while planting only a small fraction of the promised trees (Business Standard, 9/3).
A disastrous official response
Government “rescuers” are inspecting the situation from the sky by using sophisticated helicopters. The only time they come down is for big photo ops. They are spending millions but have nothing to support the displaced population. Food and non-food items are thrown from the air and aren’t packed properly which causes half of the items to be ruined; most of the food items are not edible because of improper storage and handling. Most of the rich people donated cheap and damaged items. It seems that they just cleared their warehouses!
Now the international community has started to send their help for the displaced population, but, past experience is being repeated this time as well. The officials who are responsible for distributing the items to the needy are keeping the good stuff for themselves to sell in the open market or to gift to their relatives who are not affected by the floods.
Workers help each other
Our group of communist activists are reaching out to the workers in greatest need; we organized some medical camps with the assistance of our friends in a paramedical association, we collected food and non-food items, tents and provided some logistical support to bring people out of water and mud with our limited resources. We are building a base among these displaced workers. This disaster along with our activity is helping people to understand that the capitalist system cannot help them out of this catastrophe.
Our friends are also seeing that only the working class can help them. We are trying to establish a permanent group among the affected people. Where we helped organize aid and assistance along with our political ideas of building a revolutionary movement, People praised the efforts by saying we were the only ones who came to help and not just to promote themselves.