We need to go beyond climate reparations – WDF’s solidarity statement

Decarbonize, Decolonize, and Demilitarize

Global Day of Solidarity Action – 9th September 2022

(Islamabad: We, the Women Democratic Front (WDF), thank the organizers and each campaigner for expressing solidarity with Pakistan in these difficult times. We endorse the demands and objectives of this campaign including Climate Reparations for Pakistan, End Fossil Now, and Climate Solidarity. However, we think that Pakistan’s story of ‘climate imperialism’ must go beyond these demands.

The scale of devastation: Despite having less than 1% share in carbon emission, Pakistan is exposed to climate hazards due to global warming by the global north. The catastrophe began with a prolonged heat wave of high temperatures between 40 to 51 °C – the worst in the world. It led to fires in all key forests, followed by drought in rain-fed areas, glacial lakes bursting, heavy rains with rivers breaking their banks, and the worst flash flooding of the century. According to the Government and UN OCHA’s assessments, one-third of the country is underwater, thousands of people have been killed, and 33 million people (15% of Pakistan’s total population) are displaced. Of these, 650,000 are pregnant women. Around 6.4 million are in ‘dire need’, 1.1 million houses are completely destroyed or damaged. Bridges, roads, health and education facilities, 3.6 million acres of crops and orchards have been washed away, and one million livestock have been killed.  Damages and reconstruction is estimated at $30 billion.

However, WDF’s members involved with on-ground rescue and relief work noted a much higher scale of devastation and losses. The scale of this disaster is unfathomable.

We, the WDF, reject these figures as the human suffering and losses are much greater than these estimates. These figures also invisiblize the working class and women under a single universal category of “flood affectees”.  We also noted the overall inaction on part of the state, and differential response to the Baloch nation in rescue and relief support. The international response has also been very slow. People’s solidarity campaigns and charities by the citizens are the main sources of support for the suffering humanity.

We have noted that women and children from the working class, mainly peasant, tenant, and landless families in peripheries are the most and worst affected ones. Most male workers have left for Gulf countries, and urban centers within Pakistan due to poverty and joblessness caused by prolonged imperialist war, financial imperialism, and debt servicing for decades. High male labor migration has resulted in the feminization of agriculture and natural resource management. Their crops, farms and tools, fisheries, livestock, poultry, homes and belongings have been washed away. They even can’t find dry land for funerals and the burial of their loved ones, who continue to die due to disaster and diseases.

We demand a proper inquiry into water and flood infrastructures, and scale of losses.

Pakistan is not only drowning in floods: Pakistan is not only drowning in floods but it is drowning in foreign debt and war as well – all originating from imperialism – the highest stage of global capitalism. Pakistan’s external debt is $130 billion (June 2022), and the outstanding sovereign debt obligations over the next five years will be around $50 billion, coming at a time of widespread poverty, hunger, devastation, and public ire.  The Bengal famine of 1943 killed three million people. It was not caused by drought but instead was a result of the colonial policy of the then-British Prime Minister Churchill.

This climate crisis has exposed the imperialist nature of the Pakistani state and economy, which is mainly serving the imperialist needs of the capitalist global north. The pre-existing inequalities in our society along class, patriarchy and oppressed nations’ lines have become deeper after the climate crisis.

The growth and profiteering-based capitalist development model of the international financial institutions (IFIs) has disrupted the natural flow of river water.  Big dams, barrages, and canals in irrigated feudal heartlands are also a reason for continued floods in the provinces of Sindh, Balochistan, Pakhtunkhwa, and Seriaki Waseb. All the big flood infrastructure projects were financed by IFIs and they never considered the potential environmental impacts. We reject this model of development.

We demand decolonization of our economy, 100% debt cancellation . Instead of more loans in the name of flood affectees, we demand land reforms, ban on export of food grains and regulation of prices, nationalization of cement and steel industries to enable the working class to rebuild their houses and livelihoods. The current high inflation issue should be resolved through cut on military expenditures.

Pakistan is a front-line state and has been colluding with the expansionist USA and NATO countries. We have remained under Britain’s colonial rule for two hundred years. The British Empire in India is responsible for the deaths of 35 million people and the draining of $45 trillion from India to the kingdom.  Immediately after independence from the British, Pakistan became a neo-colony of the US at beginning of the cold war period. We are probably the most colonized country in the world. The killings and resource drain still go on, we are still the battlefield.

We are suffering for the last forty years from an imperialist war in our region. Pakistan is a front-line state and a battlefield field for this war. Our youth continued to be used as gun fodder/cheap labor in this war. Despite repeated floods in 2010, 2011, and 2014, there has been a heavy increase in military expenditure at the cost of water infrastructure, better water and natural resource management, and public welfare.  The war has also caused environmental degradation. The enforced migration of Afghans to Pakistan caused increased pressure on natural resources and food security. Currently, another round of the cold war between the USA and China has already started.

We demand an end to the imperialist war in our region, the demilitarization of Pakistan, and peace and democracy in Afghanistan.

Reparation is ‘the’ solution:  We understand that claiming ‘reparations’ is a way to pay for wrongs done in the past but it doesn’t work as policy deterrence against future wrongs. We should claim it but we need to go beyond it. Reparation is a market-based solution that works like ‘Corporate Social Responsibility-CSR’ policy or ‘carbon tax’ – a capitalist mechanism to keep pollution to a socially “accepted level”. It hasn’t worked to transform economies and constitute social & environmental justice. The pricing of carbon produced in the past will not help the transition away from fossil fuels and unlimited capitalist mode of production. It is similar to the carbon tax in practice, which protects profits, not the planet. The net-zero commitment by the rich countries mainly the US to bring down the level of carbonization is extremely worrying for us.

We have to go beyond reparation and struggle not only for the decarbonization of global industry, and also struggle against capitalist production and free market economies that inherently involves imperialism and exploitation of nature .   

Final Word: Our statement must not be translated as an effort to externalize Pakistan’s internal economic crises to abdicate our own state from exploitation and oppression. We consider the state of Pakistan a capitalist, militarist, theocratic, and patriarchal state. The hegemonic military and civilian ruling classes not only collude with imperialist powers but also draw power from imperialist countries to maintain the status quo, mainly from the capital of imperialism – the US.

Transforming structures of exploitation and oppression at home is our own battle, and we will fight that battle. However, we think that the Left in the Global North needs to struggle against imperialism within the imperialist Global North to not only decarbonize but also decolonize and demilitarize the Global South, and the world. We believe that this is the battle, the western Left must fight to express solidarity with us.

Decarbonize, Decolonize, and Demilitarize

All wealth and power to the masses

Condolences to families of the departed souls

Life and healing to the wounded and homeless

Solidarity with the masses of Pakistan