Floods’ management: A perfect script for a black comedy

Raza Rumi

As I write these lines, millions are stranded and vulnerable to disease in the wake of perhaps the greatest natural disaster of recent times. Communities in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa are stranded, Sindh is facing the wrath of gods and parts of Muzaffargarh and Kot Addu have been washed away. Citizens across the country are perturbed and doing whatever they can. But the power centres including the free media are busy in point-scoring and blowing their little trumpets as if the devastation was a playground for political mileage.

They say that individual and collective characters are exposed in times of crisis. Indeed the Pakistani ruling classes have exposed themselves for their historical myopia and lack of vision. Political parties are fighting over optics, media perceptions and wasting their energies. TV channels and wise anchors on the other hand are competing who got there first to show the mammoth destruction and who fired more salvos at Asif Zardari. Adding insult to injury, the media remained busy for hours as to the alleged shoe-throwing incident at the president as if that was the topmost priority of this country.

Yet again we are also hearing how the civilian administration failed (and what is new about that) and how the only organised institution, the Pakistan Army, is saving lives. This is propaganda since the army is not something separate from the state. We are proud to have such a disciplined army but the media spin-doctors need to inform the people that it functions through the public exchequer and is an institution under the civilian government.

If anything, the attention of analysts and opinion-makers has been diversionary and divisive. A perfect script for a black comedy except that we have no time for either comedy or indulgence in melancholic fits. What is required is action – and that too concerted, purposeful and full-throttled devoid of provincialism, political bickering and abuse.

A national commission representing all political parties, the chief ministers and the army needs to be formed to devise a short-term early recovery strategy. This commission should also look into how the country will manage the medium-term effects of the disaster and how food, shelter, medicines and livelihoods for the millions will be provided. Nothing short of a national plan and mobilisation will do. Whilst the civil society will do its bit, the state has a paramount role in responding to people’s interest and welfare.

A few days later when the flood recedes, epidemics, God forbid, are likely to break out. Those who are prone to contract a serious disease after losing their livelihoods are not going to care whether it was the PPP or the PML who provided them relief. Such erroneous perceptions of political gain are brutally insensitive. Similarly, about time the political parties shun their usual short-termism. Above all the media owners now must intervene to stop the playing of political battles through slanted reporting and irrelevant analyses.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 11th, 2010.

17 Comments

Filed under Democracy, disaster, Pakistan

17 responses to “Floods’ management: A perfect script for a black comedy

  1. nazir allahwalla

    In a nut shell, Pkistan is the land of incompetence and bigotry. A failed state where nothing is working and disease and cruption is rampant. Now what do we expect from the state and pueselves? ask yourself this question.
    We have a lousy reputation all over the world. Pakistanis can only travel abroad to a very few countries without a visa. The world hates us more and more everyday.
    The big bosses have sucked pour blood and sit in airconditioned houses while the poor have to suffer and watch the rich waste food, water and energy.
    I noted in some news papers that the international community had actually committed funding that works out at just over $3 per flood-affected person.

    The commitment per person after the 2005 Pakistan earthquake was $70 and for this year’s Haiti earthquake it was $495.
    What does that tell you? Nobody is intrested in us nobody wants to help us, nobody cares about us.
    They would rather Pakistan vanishes and takes all its problems with it.
    Whatever the reasons. We have to pull up our socks, and do the best we can.
    The blame game can be played for as long as we like at a later date. Just now Time is runng out for our brothers and sisters who have to suffer because of the idiots in the govt.

  2. The utter bottom-line is that the credibility of our bigwigs, leaders and bureaujcrats is in the nadir of the gutter. Epitome of disgrace and disillusionment has beden achieved.

    The goreMINTing “elite” are travelling the world with begging boiwls in their dirty haNDS, CLAD IN sAVILE rOW CLOTHES and staying in 1.5 million rupees per night hotels while the nation is bankrupt functionally. This is a megatragedy wrapped in an enigma, warpod by inferiority-complex disguised in and compounded by very virulent epidemic (disease?) of philistine sadomasochism.

  3. bciv

    i wonder why the response to the 2005 earthquake was in complete contrast to this one. it was positive and commendable.

  4. Hasan Kara

    An excellent article.I feel the media enjoys complete freedom today but somehow it does not know how to use that freedom in a sensible manner.Instead of highlighting the flood situation a section of a media remained busy discussing the the shoe incident as if that was the biggest issue Pakistan was faced with.The media must learn to act in a responsible manner.

  5. DN

    Nice write-up. But please will someone talk about the importance of water reservoirs namely KBD in our future stratergy, if we ever develope a consensus.

  6. Tilsim

    @ bciv
    “i wonder why the response to the 2005 earthquake was in complete contrast to this one. it was positive and commendable.”

    Good point. Not sure. Is it just fatigue of the public and the international donor community or the overwhelming scale of the disaster?

    The media also did cover it very differently then which helped to mobilise public opinion. They had no distraction of Army & PPP differences over Cameron/AWOL President/flying shoes.

  7. The post suggests nothing new – everyone wishes a strong government grip over the national affairs, which unfortunately is not in sight. Why media talks of Army is that at least there is someone one can turn to in hours of distress. In fact Army should be operating under the ambit of the civil government, which completely absloves itself from its functions when army moves in.
    I have yet to see governemnt functionaries taking control of situation and handling the flood victims. I dont see city and tehsil nazims who just occupy these posts for their own personal glory and authority.
    No ministers are seen in their areas, but for short exposure to be photographed, and then disappear.
    So let the government officials functions to take control and handle all other agencies.

  8. Sher Zaman

    These floods have washed away everything that came in the way; however, it is important to realize that victims need help and that can only be provided if all of us show the same spirit as we did in 2005.

  9. Nasir

    Is it true that the Pakistani Taliban made a statement asking pakistan not to accept foreign aid – are they mad?

  10. Bin Ismail

    @Nasir (August 12, 2010 at 5:14 pm)

    What else were you expecting from them? Don’t be surprised if they ask Pakistan to annihilate itself by using its own nukes.

    Yes, they are mad.

  11. Tilsim

    I think we need to move from analysis and commentary to practical help. I have posted this from the National Disaster Management Authority’s website. They say that these items can be dropped off at the nearest PAF base.

    ITEMS REQUIRED FOR FLOOD AFFECTEES

    1. FOOD ITEMS

    a. Dried Milk for Children and Families
    b. Dates
    c. High Nutrition Biscuits
    d. Food Packets consisting of Tea, Sugar, Milk Powder, Vegetable Oil, Pulses and Spices
    e. Mineral Water —

    2. NON FOOD ITEMS

    a. Water Coolers
    b. Cooking Utensils
    c. Footwear for Children
    d. Mosquito Nets
    e. Blankets
    f. Bed Spreads
    g. Floor Mattresses
    h. Tents
    i. Tarpaulin

    3. PERSONAL HYGIENE KIT

    a. Soap
    b. Hand Towels
    c. Tooth Paste
    d. Female Sanitary Pads
    e. Diapers/ Pampers for minors
    f. Washing Powder/Soap

    4. MISC

    a. ORS
    b. Mosquito Repellents
    c. Prickly Heat Powder
    d. Children Anti Rash Creams
    e. Water Purification Tablets
    f. Candles /Match Boxes
    g. Torches —

    Note:
    The relief items may be sent to your nearest PAF Bases, where they have made arrangements for collection and transportation of the items to the flood affectees.

  12. Farooq

    Raza, it seems as if you are trying to justify the zardari gang’s crackdown against geo and ary. no doubt our media are immature and at times behave childishly. the glee with which they reported the show-hurling story was unprofessional but the likes of fauzia wahab and kaira only added fuel to the fire by contradicting the story and whetted media’s appetite for further details of the story. do you think it is less than disastrous that Bilawal house employees are reported to have been leading the riots against the media. as for flood, I fully agree with Amartya Senn that all disasters are man made. it is the ineptitude of this government that has turned it into a monstrous disasters.

  13. Tilsim

    ” it is the ineptitude of this government that has turned it into a monstrous disasters.”

    I think it’s a bit much to put all the blame at the foot of this government.

    Here is what a 2008 Transparency International Report says.

    “The Water & Power Development Authority (WAPDA) is responsible for major development, operation, distribution and maintaining dams, barrages, irrigation systems, hydropower plants as well as thermal power plants. Pakistan’s Indus Basin Irrigation System, the world’s largest water diversion scheme with more than 1.6 million kilometers of watercourses, is a prominent example of how corruption pervades economic development and distorts the priorities of infrastructure investment. Rather than counteract the pervasive dynamics of corruption. Pakistan’s water sector, like many of those around the world, is fraught with large and small-scale corruption. According to a 2003 and 2006 survey by Transparency International, Pakistan’s Water and Power Development Agency is perceived to be the second most corrupt institution in the country. Close to half of the more than 31,000 complaints received by Pakistan’s anti-corruption ombudsman in 2002 were related to this one institution. He quoted the World Bank Pakistan water strategy report 2005 admits that top positions in the country’s water bureaucracy are sold at a high price. “

  14. Khadija Noor

    The silence of AID from our so called Muslim brethren from the Arab peninsula, Indonesia, Malaysia, Iraq, Iran is deafening! I guess, the folks from Dubai, Abud Dhabi are too busy shopping at Harrods in London or building a vacation mecca on the backs of slaves from villages of Pakistan and India.
    Pakistan is hostage to the Pakistani Taliban because Pakistani men are sissified, spineless , douche-bags who afraid to take on a group of vile insurgency who have so far managed to remove the testicles of the Pakistani male!

  15. very good for article.
    thanks !

  16. Razaq Chaudry

    I feel the magnitude of present disaster is byfar out of reach of any country what to talk of Pakistan. NDMA just recently established after 2005 earthquake with a sizeable amount of money from foreign donors, is still in its infancy stage. I agree that this is not the time to throw punches, we must unite as a nation and do our job to help. Zardari or no zardari, it is beyond government capability to deal with disaster of such magintude. The biggest failure on the part of responsible agencies was the proper monitoring of flood situation and early warning, there I feel NDMA totally failed. Culturally we do not accept science of disaster management, we take things as they come and most of the time just take as the will of GOD. The political instability, rampant corruption and terrorism has not given any chance to any instition to develop and get its due share of attention. Our public is not aware of its rights, the media is too raw, no research is made to develop an opinion, public is not educated about their rights and their responsibilities. The people are living in flood plains and they do not know, there is no concept of mitigation, planning, respose and recovery process. The emergency management infrstructure is too weak and ignorant about emergency management procedures and planning. I feel we have to take emergency management seriously, we have to develop strong infrastructure at local level, we have to enforce building codes, we have to develop volunteerism and most importantly we have to build our resources for emergency management .