Famous TV Journalist says Killer Quake Wiped Out the Kashmir Dream

Special South Asia Tribune Report

ISLAMABAD, October 16 (2005): Not only the entire civil administration and the political leadership of Azad Kashmir had evaporated, the military struggle for liberation of Kashmir has also been buried under the killer earthquake of October 8, a senior TV journalist said after an extensive tour of the affected areas.

Dr Shahid Masood, TV personality of Dubai-based ARY One World Network told the South Asia Tribune there was widespread looting and chaos in most of the areas where no relief has arrived and where even the damage to life and property has not been assessed.

Dr Masood returned to Islamabad on Friday after a five-day tour during which he walked more than 50 kilometers on foot, reaching Muzaffarabad, Balakot and Chakothi and saw the devastation, recording it on his camera before any relief parties could reach there.

Dr Masood’s in-depth coverage of the destruction from Muzaffarabad was one of the prime factors which brought a sleeping Islamabad and its ruling classes into action as he was the first TV person to point out that the October 8 quake was not just about a fallen apartment building in Islamabad but about death and misery to thousands more wiped out in remote areas.

Dr. Masood was particularly critical of those Government spokesmen, including the Minister of Information Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, who had attacked the first reports of ARY and denied that any vast devastation had taken place. “They started attacking me by name while denying everything. Look where they stand now, shameless.”

The ARY channel interviewed several victims of the quake in Muzaffarabad and other badly hit areas while pointed questions thrown by Dr Masood at ill informed and shameless Government ministers and spokesmen brought home the fact that Islamabad was caught napping and mourning the Margalla Complex when an entire humanity has been wiped out in Hazara and Kashmir.

In his interview to the South Asia Tribune Dr Masood said the pathetic fact was that the political leadership and the ruling elite of Kashmir had disappeared from the scene and most of the Azad Kashmir cabinet ministers were enjoying normal life in government rest houses and AJK House in Islamabad.

Neither there was any civilian administration nor the Army had declared some kind of a military rule for the emergency with the result that a free for all had ensued with every one trying desperately to survive. “It was the day after a nuclear bomb blast, or even worse.”

“I could not see even one Kashmiri militant on the spot providing even verbal consolation to the hopeless and devastated victims. From Mujahid-e-Awal (the title given to Sardar Abdul Qayyum Khan) to all the Mujahideen belonging to the socalled Liberation Struggle, no one was in sight,” he said.

The failure of the political leadership, Dr. Masood said, was stark but the performance of the Pakistan Armed Forces was only slightly better as they were on the spot but they had no clue how to coordinate a relief effort required to be colossal in scale and monumental in size.

“I could see that the Chief Secretary of Azad Kashmir, wearing a suit and tie even in such terrible conditions, was running helter skelter to get a handle on the situation, but in vain. All his officers, his police and his infra-structure had been buried under the rubble,” Dr. Masood said.

Dr Masood said the tragedy of Kashmir will continue to unfold for days and weeks as all of those thousands who have lost their family and friends would try to find the remains and bodies of their loved ones and failing that would turn their anger on someone, most probably the Government of the day.

After the extensive tour of the badly hit areas, the senior journalist said the Government will have to do a much better job to rehabilitate the affected people if a political fallout was to be avoided.

Dr Masood will be presenting a series of programs on his extensive visit to Kashmir in the coming days.

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