Evangelical Christians from South Asia living in Britain are pushing to have Pakistan’s crippling international debts cancelled.
They are linking the issue to the costs of recovery and redevelopment from the devastating floods that took place earlier this summer.
The appeal comes after the United Nations launched its largest ever humanitarian appeal, aimed at raising US$2 billion for emergency-hit Pakistan.
The South Asian Forum of the Evangelical Alliance says it makes no sense to give money with one hand and take it with the other, especially at a time of crisis.
The Forum warns that life-saving relief efforts for some 20 million flood victims could be jeopardised if the Pakistani government is forced to send almost a third of its annual budget revenues to foreign creditors.
The group’s founder, Ram Gidoomal, says the Pakistani floods appeal had been met with less publicity and fewer calls to action than the Indian Ocean tsunami, Kashmir floods and Haiti earthquake.
This is despite the fact that the UN estimates that the number of people affected is higher than the three disasters combined.
“It’s no surprise that people are fed up hearing about war, strife and disasters in Pakistan,” says Gidoomal.
He continues: “That doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the sum total of my native country and it also doesn’t mean that the suffering of 20 million Pakistani people isn’t any more or less important than those of other nationalities.
EA's South Asian Forum is urging British Christians to add their names to an online petition to be handed to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund by the advocacy group Avaaz.
The petition calls for the cancellation of Pakistan’s international debt so that the country can focus on recovering from the floods.
Mr Gidoomal, originally from Pakistan’s Sindh province, commented: “Servicing debts to international donors currently costs Pakistan around $3 billion annually.
“This is almost triple what the country spends on healthcare and is shocking when you consider that 38 per cent of the country’s five-year-olds are underweight, more than half the population is illiterate and two thirds live below the poverty line,” he declared.
The petition can be signed here: http://www.avaaz.org/en/pakistan_cancel_the_debt