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EDITORIAL: Whilst the people struggle to survive in Afghanistan, war-devastated and under punitive sanctions, a 6.1 magnitude earthquake struck the country’s eastern provinces in the early hours of Wednesday (last) morning. It was the country’s worst seismic event since 2002. Initial reports say at least 1,000 people were killed and 1,500 injured. The actual death toll is believed to be much higher as some of the affected villages are in remote mountainous region presently inaccessible.

Tremors from the powerful quake were also felt in tribal districts of Pakistan as well as Islamabad. A soldier lost his life in Datakhel when his checkpost caved in, and in Lakki Marwat a young footballer died as his house collapsed, burying him under the rubble.

The Taliban have appealed for international help. Meanwhile, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has said the UN was fully mobilised, assessing needs and providing initial support. By way of initial help Pakistan has already dispatched a convoy of trucks carrying tents, blankets, and medicines.

But a more urgent need at this point in time is search and rescue for those caught under debris. Since the UN lacks these capabilities, its deputy envoy in Afghanistan said Turkey is “best positioned” to provide such support. That nation is expected to do its part. But there are several European countries, such as Britain, France and Germany, who have the necessary equipment and the ability to take out people trapped under the rubble.

The US also has assets in the region that can be deployed to save lives. They must put humanitarian considerations before political concerns. As Pakistan’s representative at the UN averred at a meeting in New York “the humanitarian assistance should not become a victim of geopolitics. UN’s humanitarian principles, including the principles of neutrality and impartiality, must be upheld.” Hopefully, international help would be forthcoming soon, if not already on the way.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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