Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Aid for Pakistan

The following article first appeared in the La Presse de Montreal, By Patrice Lagace on Sept. 20/2010. Since that time is has appeared on various websites and has been widely circulated by e-mail. Ms. Lagace tells quite a convincing tale – or does she? The readers are invited to judge for themselves but with an open mind. My own response is included at the conclusion of the article. Please bear in mind that the tragic situation in Pakistan is far from over.

“Before talking about the disaster in Pakistan, I would like to tell you about this marvelous killing machine called an F-16. You know what a F-16 is, don't you? Well, it's one of the most popular fighter planes in the world.

They cost approximately $40 million each. And of course, during its lifetime, it will have cost one and half the purchase price for maintenance, repairs (and windshield washer, you wouldn't believe the insane price of each can of windshield washer that these toys use).

So, coming back to the disaster in Pakistan .

Terrible! If we weren't talking about a Muslim country, we could refer to the flooding as being of Biblical proportions: 20,000,000 disaster victims. Just appalling.

Over the last two or three days we've been hearing voices accusing the West ( Canada and United States ) of a lack of generosity towards a very seriously afflicted Pakistan . People are being told off in Canada , France and Great-Britain. In yesterday's La Presse, my colleague Marie-Claude Malboeuf mentioned that a humanitarian coalition had barely collected $200,000.00 for Pakistan whereas, during the same period of time, a phenomenal sum of $3,600,000.00 was collected for Haitians after the earthquake that devastated their country. The NGO (non-governmental organizations) are stamping their feet. They are getting impatient. They are clamoring of catastrophe and cholera. The most tragic thing is that they are probably right.

Internationally, the UNO has collected only 40% of the 460 million dollars needed for urgent aid. Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister of England has berated the international community for its stinginess: 'The reaction of the international community is deplorable.'

But I'm extrapolating. I was talking about the F-16. Quite recently, a country acquired a brand new fleet of twenty, or so, of these fantastic killers in the air.

Which country was this now?


Before going any further, I'm warning you: the writer of this article is a naive journalist. A naive journalist who admits it candidly and who wants to know: If Pakistan had $1.4 billion to acquire fighter planes from Lockheed very recently, why doesn't Pakistan have $460 million to help its own 'drenched' citizens?

I apologize to the Red Cross, to CARE, to Oxfam and other non-governmental organizations, but I, for one, will not give one red penny towards the humanitarian relief in Pakistan .

I will NOT give a penny to help Pakistan because Pakistan never had any problem buying military equipment or getting financial help to buy some.

I don't mind helping Haiti , a small country that has nothing (except corrupted rulers). I don't mind giving for help to Africa ; it's the least I can do.

I will not give to Pakistan as I will not give to the New Orleans fishermen who have lost their source of income since the oil disaster caused by BP in the Gulf of Mexico .

Zachary Richard (a Cajun singer from New Orleans ) is going to produce, with the help of many Quebecois singers, a CD which profits will be given to the New Orleans fishermen. Then, they're planning a charity concert. Concerts are very nice. Musical charity is very nice too. And I do sympathize with the New Orleans fishermen.

But here again, it's your naive journalist who is talking. I wonder why I should give one penny to the inhabitants of the richest country in the history of humanity, whose source of income was annihilated by a giga-multinational company with a market valuation of $120 billion US, and belonging to one of the most lucrative industries 'energy' on this planet.

It seems to me that the United States of America , that BP, that the energy industry have enough money to compensate the New Orleans fishermen and their families and the offspring of their families until 2060, at least.

But let's come back to PAKISTAN . On July 19th, the New York Times published a condemning article on the tax system of Pakistan . A banana republic tax system, where the rich concocted a way to avoid paying taxes.

I'm not talking about not paying a little income tax, I'm talking about total tax evasion. I'm talking about a country where 10 million people should be paying taxes, but only 2.5 million do. And all of this is legal. The rich managed to come up with a plan which dispenses them from paying taxes. The New York Times mentioned that average 'average' worth (?) of Pakistani parliamentarians is $900,000. Nawaz Sharif, the Opposition leader, and a millionaire hasn't, for his part, paid any income taxes in 2005, 2006 and 2007. This system favors elitists, (a system by elitists for elitists) says Riyaz Hussein Naqvi, Pakistani a retired public servant who worked as a tax collector for 38 years. It is a distorted system in which the poor pays for the rich.

What The Times did not mention but which you probably already know, I know that you read the international news in dailies with great interest, is that Pakistan already has nuclear arms. In fact, it owns countless nuclear missiles.

So, if I recap all this:

Pakistan is an oligarchy (a government in which a small group exercises control especially for corrupt and selfish purposes) which exempts the rich from paying income tax. Pakistan has money to buy F-16's. Pakistan has money to keep an atomic arsenal capable of destroying half the planet!

I am not that naive after all. Pakistan has the means to help its own people.

Note from Pierre (the fellow who began sending this article around): If I remember well, on September 11th 2001, when the Twin Towers in New York were destroyed by terrorists, yes I do remember very well having seen live television coverage showing adults and children from Iran, Pakistan and other Muslim countries, dancing in the streets and having a whale of a time because the United States had been touched right in the heart. They were elated because thousands of Americans were killed.

Well now that they're in deep sh.., they ask for our help!!! And what will they do to us in five years, in ten years?


Accepting this argument, which on the surface seems completely logical, should teach us about the insanity of war. But somehow it doesn’t. Let’s consider an infant, who for no other reason than fate, is born to a poor family in Pakistan. This family is now suffering from a devastating flooding of biblical proportions. Is it the child’s fault that her government spent money (also of biblical proportions) on acquiring arms. Should we focus on giving aid to this child and her family, or should we just ignore them so that we can comfortably continue to live on the profits of manufacturing arms?
Perhaps we should ask why te news media provided inciteful pictures of celebrating but ignorant Pakistanis, Iraqis, and Iranians on the eve of 9/11? What was the purpose behind these pictures, and how does it make us respond to war? How does it make us respond to that unnamed infant in Pakistan? Am I defending Pakistan’s decision to purchase weapons – no absolutely not. This logic actually prevents us from seeking an end to all wars. We need to find ways to help our neighbour instead of building walls.

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