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CADTM-Pakistan strategize campaign for foreign debt cancellation

Publishing Date: August 23rd 2010

To discuss debt crisis in the backdrop of the severe humanitarian and economic crisis, caused by the on-going devastating floods in Pakistan, CADTM-Pakistan organized a meeting of the group members and various representatives of civil society organizations on 21 August 2010, at CADTM office, 7/Egerton Road, Lahore. The meeting sole agenda was discussion on strategy to highlight and articulate demand for Pakistan’s debt cancellation.

The meeting had consensus view that worst-ever floods have hit Pakistan, causing misery to about 20 million people, rendering them shelter less, foodless and resource less. The government of Pakistan has not enough resources to meet the basic needs of this huge population of affected people. But creditors and IFIs are in no mood to show leniency towards calamity-hit and debt ridden Pakistan. They are still demanding their due installments from Pakistan and ready to extend more loans instead of grants.

The apathy of IFIs, insufficient international aid and inability of government of Pakistan to meet basic needs of the 20 million people has aggravated the situation, creating a real human crisis. Under the circumstance radical and progressive minds are feeling compelled to present proposals to make necessary resources available for relief and rehabilitation of flood hit communities.

Prevailing was the opinion that the demand for cancellation of Pakistan debt is gaining ground in media, civil society, academia and intellectuals. But it has not emerged suddenly. CADTM-Pakistan has done some ground work in the last three years to popularize the issue of debt. Still it needs more efforts to further highlight this vital and chronic problem of Pakistan on the political and social horizon. The question of Pakistan debt is going to become a mainstream issue.

Focal person of CADTM-Pakistan, Abdul Khaliq presented Pakistan’s latest debt situation. Explaining the point, he told that Pakistan’s debt is continuously rising and never gone down since 1999. The total current foreign debt is $ 54 billion on which Pakistan pays $ 3 billion every year under debt-servicing. This is a huge amount, three times the amount Pakistan spends on health of 180 million Pakistanis. He told the participants that the gravity, scale and degree of recent calamity calls for some bold steps to resist chronic debt domination of Pakistan.

He threw light on the moral, legal and economic grounds, available to Pakistan under the current situation for unilateral suspension of external debt liabilities. He quoted the references of "State of Necessity" and 1999 resolution of UN Human Rights Commission, allowing calamity-hit countries to suspend repayments and divert the available resources to their people in urgent need. The only thing Pakistan needs is to exercise political will.

He presented the CADTM-Pakistan position; total debt unconditional cancellation and urged the participants to come up with suggestions to get endorsement of wider section of society on this position. Participants were also briefed on CADTM-Pakistan’s activities; demos, rallies, press conferences etc, held during the last couple of years.

While agreeing with CADTM-Pakistan position on Pakistan debt cancellation, participants made comments and queries on the presentation. They urged the need to get maximum organizations/ groups on one platform to raise a strong and consensus voice against debt in an effective manner. We have not only to pressurize our government to refuse debt payments but also ask IFIs and creditors to repudiate Pakistan debt per international protocols, precedents and laws. Participants put forward following suggestions to amplify the CADFTM-Pakistan demands.

· Development of awareness material, like leaflets, pamphlets, flyers, posters on debt crisis is quite imperative to popularize the demand.

· CADTM-Pakistan website is need of hour to reach out to a wider and maximum audience.

· Monthly electronic newsletter “Pakistan Debt Update” may be useful for the campaign

· Seek International solidarity with CADTM-Pakistan position will be helpful to put pressure on the government to refuse debt payments.

· Draft appeal for wider circulation and endorsement of the civil society, political and professional groups.

· Write letters to IFIs and Creditors for repudiation of Pakistan debt.

· Networking with alliances and organizations that support CADTM-Pakistan position

· Meetings with professional groups and bodies, like High Court Bars, Journalist, doctors bodies, students unions, trade unions and social movements

· Advocacy and Lobbying with Parliamentarians

Decisions:

CADTM-Pakistan will enhance its activities, undertake much-needed steps to popularize present and project debt cancelation demand at national and international level. To ensure implementation of the decisions, responsibilities were assigned to group members. Abdul Khaliq will work on draft appeal, website and contact with donors. Rabbiya Bajwa and Shahid Usman will lobby with lawyers community to get resolution for debt cancellation passed from Lahore High court Bar. Taseer Duddi and Aamir Suhail to arrange media briefing meetings. Saleha and Bushra facilitate meetings with students and women groups.

Participating civil organizations include :

· Women Workers Help line, WWHL

· PASSCO Workers Union,

· Ittehad Carpet Workers Union, ILUCIP

· Punjab Union of Journalists, PUJ

· Lahore High Court Bar, LHCBA

· Labor Education Foundation, LEF

· Pre-STEP,

· Foundation for Research and development, FRD

· Action Aid Pakistan, AAPK

· Alliance Against Sexual Harassment (AASHA),

· Free Legal Aid Society (FLASH)

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