The 12th anniversary of a devastating 2005 earthquake which left nearly one hundred thousand people killed and hundreds of thousands homeless and destroyed basic infrastructure was observed in Pakistan and Azad Kashmir on Sunday. The day started with special prayers for the victims of the quake in mosques and at their graves followed by a one minute silence at 8am in remembrance of martyrs of the quake. The main function of the day was held at uppar ada presided over by President Azad Jammu and Kashmir Sardar Muhammad Masood Khan and participated by acting Prime Minister Raja Nasar Ahmad Khan to highlight the significance of the day. The memorial activities had already started on Saturday with a walk organized by State Disaster Management Authority (SDMA) led by Secretary of SDMA Zaheer Quraishi to create awareness among the masses about precautionary measures to meet any catastrophe.
The horrific earthquake had 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.
Army officers and jawans had rushed to the areas devastated by floods, and worked day in and day out to save the lives of the flood affectees and also took part in relief measures. How irreversibly the lives of millions changed on this morning twelve years ago in the Northern Areas of Pakistan. 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. The civil administration of federal capital was found wanting in vision 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. Anyhow, functions and seminars were 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 and parts of KPK.