Claiming that lack of coordination between army and civilian authorities was hampering relief efforts in PoK, a United States-based human rights watchdog has accused Pakistani military officials of putting scarce tents and other relief supplies in storage rather than handing them out to the needy.
In a statement, Human Rights Watch, whose representatives are monitoring relief efforts in Pakistan, claimed it was told by officials in charge of dispersing relief supplies, which had been designated for government workers in Muzaffarabad, that tents and other emergency supplies were being stored instead of being distributed.
Officials at the site were quoted as saying that this was being done so that they would be able to avoid problems when senior military and civilian officials demand supplies that otherwise would not be available. One official said that he would be fired if he handed out the tents.
Relief efforts have been hampered by a lack of coordination between the army and civilian authorities and a scarcity of resources, the HRW said.
"Tents are the difference between life and death (in PoK)," said Brad Adams, Asia director of HRW. "It is essential for the public to know that aid is being handled in a non-arbitrary, non-discriminatory manner."
"Tents are now the most important commodity. But they are being used for power and patronage by military and civilian authorities that control the territory," Asma Jahangir, chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, told HRW.
Hundreds of thousands of homeless and displaced victims of the October 8 earthquake face the threat of disease and death from exposure, unless the supply of weatherised tents and blankets increases dramatically and quickly.
Almost two weeks after the earthquake, there is a massive shortage of tents even in Muzaffarabad, the hub of international and Pakistani relief efforts, Human Rights Watch said.
"This is a challenging situation for all concerned but it may worsen unless the Pakistani authorities become more inclusive in the coordination and organization of relief efforts," it added.
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