Pakistan needs immediate assistance

PTH is starting a series of posts devoted to the Pakistan’s current crisis effects of which will be long term in nature. While millions of Pakistanis are in dire need of emergency help, our country’s political and economic instability will have ramifications for the region and the world. This is why it is extremely important to understand how several parts of Pakistan have lost decades of development and a state with weak capacities needs billions of dollars in the short term to start a major programme of rehabilitation. If Pakistani state is unable to intervene, the Taliban and other Al-Qaeda militants (and their allies in South Punjab) will find a golden opportunity to annihilate the Pakistani state, discredit constitutional governance and capture political space. Pakistanis cannot be silent victims and therefore we will speak. Pakistan has to be rescued and the international community cannot absolve itself of the responsibility towards its frontline state. Raza Rumi

AA Khalid, a regular at PTH, has written the first article for this series.

Pakistan Floods – Issues and Lessons

The weakness of the State in Pakistani politics has always been a concern but with the advent of the tragic floods it has been exemplified and magnified. In a recent Guardian article it has been observed that:

‘’Ever since Pakistan was created, the army has been the only institution capable of responding to natural disasters. One of the reasons that the military has been so politically dominant is that successive civilian governments have relied on the generals to help them deal with national crises.’’

This is not a problem contingent on which political party is in office, but rather is a comment on the inability of the State to take control and have a discernable sphere of influence and power.

Elsewhere it has been noted that the problem of the international response has been marred by perceptions of Pakistan that have been focused and limited to violence. In another Guardian article:

‘’ Compare and contrast: within days of the 2004 tsunami, £100m had poured into Oxfam, the Red Cross and other charities, and by February 2005 when the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) closed its appeal, the total stood at £300m. The Haiti earthquake appeal closed with donations of £101m. The DEC total for the Pakistan floods appeal has just reached £10m. .’’

The reasons for this are that the media coverage of Pakistan in the international process lacks any sort of depth, sensitivity and intellectual empathy. The reductionist approach to Pakistan has meant that Pakistanis are reduced to a fixed and narrow set of problems whilst totally ignoring the wider context. Pieces on Pakistan in the international press rarely focus on the other multitude of problems which affect the general population. Economics and real democratic discourse are ignored, and the phenomenon of puritan fundamentalism is hence seen in isolation from socio-economic affairs.

Prevention is always a better remedy. Any country would struggle to deal with the current disaster in Pakistan which has been greater in size and scope than the last few international disasters combined. The current disaster is by far the largest in the UN’s history. In the Telegraph:

‘’ Although the current 1,600 death toll in Pakistan represents a tiny fraction of the estimated 610,000 people killed in the three previous events, some two million more people – 13.8 million – have suffered losses requiring long or short-term help. Maurizio Giuliano, a spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said: “This disaster is worse than the tsunami, the 2005 Pakistan earthquake and the Haiti earthquake.”Hence the question remains, that it is the existing infrastructure (and need for new infrastructure such as dams) and need for planning for disasters that is the main lesson that needs to be taken away from this disaster. The need for using science and understanding the our climate is greater now more than ever. With climate change now readily accepted as an actual phenomenon by leading scientific authorities we need to investigate and look at this event more seriously for our own future planning. A BBC article on the subject of understanding the Indus in relation to climate change theories:”Monsoon intensity is somewhat sensitive to the surface temperature of the Indian Ocean.

“During times of cooler climate, less moisture is picked up from the ocean, the monsoon weakens, and the Indus river flow is reduced.”So, will global warming have the reverse effect, returning the Indus to the monster river of 6,000 years ago?”That is the million-dollar question”, said Professor John Clague, from Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, Canada, an expert on the Asian monsoon. “There is huge uncertainty… and this is a matter of heated debate amongst scientists at present.”

Climate change needs to be looked closely by authorities and planning according to what the scientific data tells us needs to be made.

As another article points out we need to take a more proactive stance on flooding and natural disasters, since any State would find it difficult to respond to the calamities of such epic disasters:

‘’ For preparation to face such disasters in future, the Pakistan government has to build adequate flood defences along the Indus River, where most of southern Pakistan’s population live, and improving flood-forecasting systems.’’

However, the construction of dams in Pakistan has always been a contentious issue, usually marred by provincialism and financial greed, in total disregard for the national interest:

‘’ The present destruction and calamity could have been prevented,” said Shams-ul Mulk, a former chief of Pakistan’s Water and Power Development Authority, who has championed the dam’s construction. “If the Kalabagh dam had been built, this flood could have been tamed in the reservoir.”

However:

‘’ The Kalabagh project faces opposition from landowners south of Punjab province, who fear a large new dam could be used to withhold water in times of drought.’’

This provincialism and misguided self interest has been proven wrong in the advent of this flood. What the floods have told us is that our provincial and financial interest which we regard as rational is actually irrational. A nation needs to act with coherence and a sense of unified purpose. Those who argue on provincial and financial interest for the opposition for the construction of dams need to reconsider now; indeed it is their moral duty to fully support such dams. If this flood has taught us anything it is that prevention and planning are key, since the response to such disasters is always going to struggle, hence the debate on dam construction needs to be brought back on the table and pursued vigorously.

18 Comments

Filed under Al Qaeda, Economy, Environment, Pakistan, south asia, Taliban, Terrorism

18 responses to “Pakistan needs immediate assistance

  1. Pingback: Pakistan needs immediate assistance - All My Posts governance Pakistan - al Qaeda devastation floods Humanity Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa militancy Pakistan Punjab Sindh Taliban - Jahane Rumi

  2. bciv

    ANP has been long claiming that constructing the dam at kalabagh would drown nowshehra. now, the technical experts are telling us that having the dam would have saved nowshehra from drowning.

  3. This article was needed at this time since we need to know why the world is sitting on the fence watching us washed away. There are many reasons – KB Dam being the chief reason, the construction of which is delayed for reasons very well known to all of us.
    Yes, Army always rises above all prejudices and rescues the poeple of Pakistan when hit by wrath of nature, while the politicians only visit the victims for photo sessions.
    Why the world community is not coming forward? I fot the answer through one site from the comments of the common american citizens. Read some of these comments in my post “The devastating floods in Pakistan and the language of the friends” at:
    http://jahojalal.blogspot.com/2010/08/devastating-floods-in-pakistan-and.html

  4. PMA

    AS RUSSIA burns to a crisp, thousands of kilometres to the south-west torrential storms visit unprecedented flooding on Pakistan. Both events can be attributed to the same large-scale pattern of atmospheric circulation. They are also both the sort of thing climate scientists expect more of in a warming world.
    The upper atmosphere (the part through which the jet streams run) is gently rocked by what are known as Rossby waves—movements of air towards and away from the poles. These waves usually travel east or west, depending on various conditions. But they can also stand still, trapping the weather beneath them.
    According to Brian Hoskins, a climate scientist at the University of Reading, this year’s anticyclones in the Atlantic have produced just such a gridlock in the world of the Rossby waves, with persistent troughs of low pressure over western and central Europe, a ridge of high pressure over Russia, and lows again farther east. The air itself doesn’t necessarily sit still, but the pressure patterns which dominate the weather persist. The troughs have seen rain—producing serious floods in central and eastern Europe and catastrophic ones in Pakistan. The pronounced and persistent high over Russia has seen record temperature after record temperature.
    Like many atmospheric processes, heatwaves have a tendency to feed upon themselves. High pressure makes it hard for clouds to form, and thus for rain to fall. Under cloudless skies, the surface gives up its moisture, making the ground level hotter and drier while not increasing the chances of rain. As things get drier, fires start and spread. The still air keeps the smoke close to the surface, exacerbating its effects on health. The soot heats the air further. This is what has been happening in Russia for the past two months.
    According to Geert Jan van Oldenborgh of the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, a straightforward comparison of the temperatures seen in European Russia this summer with those of the past 60 years suggests that a lot of the country is experiencing temperatures which might be expected only once every 400 years or so. For parts of the patch, it is hotter than might be expected over several millennia.
    If you take into account the warming trend of the past half century, however, the extraordinary heatwave starts to look less improbable: a once-in-a-century event, perhaps. As the warming trend continues in future, the chances of such events being repeated yet more frequently will become higher still.
    Peter Stott, the head of climate monitoring at Britain’s Met Office, says that a change in the jet stream, which is part of the bigger pattern of gridlock in the upper atmosphere, has allowed more warm, moist monsoonal air to flow north to Pakistan. At the same time, says Professor Hoskins, cold air has been entering the region in the upper parts of the atmosphere, flowing south from Siberia as part of the same persistent pattern that is keeping Russia hot. The influx of cold air on top of warm, moist air favours the sort of deep convection that creates powerful storms, turning moisture in the air into water on the ground very efficiently.
    How might the complex relationship between jet streams and Rossby waves change in a warmer world? At the moment, no one is sure. Climate change will shift the patterns of circulation in some ways, but there is no strong reason to believe that it will lead them to seize up more often. Yet the effects of these persistent patterns may get more unpleasant because the world will be warmer and have a more vigorous hydrological cycle.
    Both heatwaves and heavy precipitation are more common everywhere than they were 50 years ago. Reflecting the latter trend, the Indian monsoon has been seeing more of its rainfall in extreme events than it did in the past. No single one of those events can be directly attributed to climate change; nor can Russia’s heatwave. The pattern of increases, though, fits expectations—and those expectations see things getting worse.

  5. neel123

    More than 300 million British pounds of aid for victims of the 2005 Pakistan earthquake has been diverted by President Asif Ali Zardari’s [ Images ] government, raising fears that this will deter donors coming to the aid of flood devastated people in the country., a report stated.

    “As the money was not forthcoming, schools, hospitals, buses and roads planned to come up with money given by foreign governments and international aid groups remain unbuilt almost five years after the earthquake which killed 80,000 and left four million people homeless,” The Daily Telegraph reported on Saturday quoting senior Pakistani officials.

    The damning report comes as Pakistani leadership is clamouring for millions of dollars in international aid to cope with the country’s worst ever calamity in which 20 million people are affected by floods.

    The paper said international donors gave 3.5 billion pounds to rebuild vast swaths of Pakistan occupied Kashmir [ Images ] and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa provinces after the earthquake destroyed the region’s infrastructure.

    However, senior Pakistani officials said more than 300 million pounds given in aid has yet to be handed over to the country’s Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority.

    Telegraph cited a senior ERRA official as saying that they were told in March 2009 that 90 million pounds was being diverted from their budget to other government projects.

    “When we have the money we will pay you,” officials told ERRA directors. In June again their budget was cut from 43 billion rupees to just 10 billion.

    The diversion of money has come in for strong condemnation by the Opposition leader Nawaz Sharif [ Images ], who said, “There’s reluctance, even people in this country even people in this country are not giving generously into this flood fund because they’re not too sure the money will be spent honestly.”

    The paper said it had surveyed Balakot town, one of the worst affected in 2005 earthquake where 25,000 people died and the people were told that their township would be rebuilt.

    “But despite promises that the new town would be completed by last month, not a single road has been completed nor building construction began on the site of new Balakot,” The Telegraph said.

  6. NSA

    neel123, Red Cross or Doctors without Borders or other such organizations can be counted on to get the aid to the needy.

  7. Neel: by posting this report what are you trying to say here. Such press reports are just another manifestation of ignorance about Pakistan and the vociferous propaganda that it is a dysfunctional state. What the world needs to consider is as follows: what is the alternative now? Pakistani state cannot be allowed to wither away. It will spell doom. This is the time to rescue Pakistan and most importantly the poor, hapless over 20 million homeless, disease-prone and vulnerable. This post is not intended to start a Pakistanis vs Pakistan-bashers discussion. At this juncture there is no alternative to help the Pakistan’s civilian, democratic government for the people’s representatives will ensure that relief gets to their constituents – otherwise they will be wiped out in a political sense.
    Sent from my BlackBerry® Smartphone. Typos are regretted

  8. DN

    The magnanimous destruction and aftermath of this calamity highlights the myopic vision and ineffective planning of our successive governments, for whom the budgets for developement and infrastructure hold an excellent oppurtunity for embezzelment. Add to it the flavour of provincialism and ethnicity and you have the pot brewing with the disaster that we now have at our hands. The disconcerting fact being that this natural disaster could have been prevented or reduced to a great extent.

  9. Gorki

    Dear Rumi Sahib,

    “At this juncture there is no alternative to help the Pakistan’s civilian, democratic government for the people’s representatives will ensure that relief gets to their constituents – otherwise they will be wiped out in a political sense..”

    While that is true, and a good reason not to abandon the people of Pakistan, a better reason why the world should be providing aid is because we are human, and we consider ourselves civilized; and empathy for suffering of others is what makes us so.
    I was happy to read that India too offered a few million dollars in aid and hope that Pakistan government accepts the offer in aid in the spirit it was offered.

    Who knows some day Pakistan may be in a position to repay it back and offer its own aid to India in an hour of need.

    It is unfortunate that there is such suffering going on in our common homeland, still I would like to wish all a happy Independence day and hope for an early relief from suffering.

    Never have the following words of JLN felt more appropriate than today, on our twin anniversaries:

    ‘We think also of our brothers and sisters who have been cut off from us by political boundaries and who unhappily cannot share at present in the freedom that has come. They are of us and will remain of us whatever may happen, and we shall be sharers in their good and ill fortune alike.’

    Regards

  10. Pingback: Pakistan needs immediate assistance - BlogOn.pk

  11. Hayyer

    Western aid donors like to see a good body count before they shell out. Fallen buildings and the dead being pulled out, preferably by workers of Western aid agencies who then go on TV to burnish their image. Floods don’t offer that kind of deal.

    One reads that the damage is in billions of dollars. A few hundred million may help feed those rendered destitute but the most difficult part will come after the flood has receded. Rebuilding infrastructure and homes and replenishing the capital stock of the poor peasants, their livestock and household goods. That will take colossal sums of money.

    In the meanwhile you need tents, boats and helicopters, fuel, food and cookware and medicine. There are more floods coming one reads. The dams in India are nearly topped up. Soon they will have to release all the water flowing in. That is, three major dams on the Indian side all releasing all the flow till now stopped. The authorities have promised a 24 notice to our farmers downstream to get out of the way. I hope the Pak embassy in Delhi is keeping close track.

  12. Dastagir

    First there is the “immedite”. To Save Life. Feed people. Preventive action as regards spread of viral diseases (malaria / diarrhea / etc). Then the task of rehabilitating these 5-10 million people ! Where ? How ?

    If a disaster of this dimension could not bring the Pakistani nation “together”., i wonder what could ? This opportunity should be utilised to garner public opinion on the need to have Kalabagh Dam / river linking / water management thru-out Pakistan.

    What after the “immediate” ?

    Pakistan slips from crisis to crisis. Where was (is) the peace ? The luxury of peace was never afforded Pakistan., so that it could settle down and plan long-term.

    A strong leadership, that is sincere and not corrupt is needed to steer Pakistan… without interruption. A 20-year rule by a well meaning Pakistani leader can produce results.

    Who foots the bill for all the above tasks (immediate, short-term, medium term and long term ?). Pakistan has a very low tax-base… Its exports (cotton) dont earn it the billions needed. Arabs (GCC) are themselves sealing their own wounds… and honestly… the Arabs today (2010) are on their way to economic poverty. The gloss of the 1970s-1990s is over. Arabs ARE poor. Yet their poverty doesnt surface because their numbers are less. All the Arabs (GCC & Non-GCC., including Egypt and Sudan) are only 100 Million (10 crores). In other words., approx. half of Bangladeshi Population !!!!

    There is NO one who will help Pakistan. US itself is in economic slowdown… EU has its own woes (Greece bankruptcy etc etc). Arabs have become poor due to massive mis-management of funds for the past 50 years under Junglee leadership. There is no one to help Pakistan with billions of dollars today.

    America wants to RENT “freedom-fighters” to accomplish its “Tasks”… and Pakistan has become a great bazaar to provide Soldiers for rent / sale.. Since the cursed entry of the Soviet Union under Brezhnev into Afghanistan… Pakistan has slipped from one crisis to another. Some of its own making… and some not of its own making… but Pakistan has been taken for a very long ride… and seems impossible to get out of this dark tunnel now.

    But the world lives on hope. One should never become cynical even in the darkest hour. Human spirit can conquer DARKNESS.

    Pakistani leadership must demonstrate some kind of “SWADESHI”… Think Global-Buy Local… an INTERNALISED MINDSET. Pakistanis must start looking “INWARDS”… an inward introspection… utilisation of local resources… its a mental thing… but once you achieve that… tangible / material progress becomes possible.

    This is an opportunity to defeat the Mullah… and expose the Mullah. Once you cut off the Financial supporters of the Mullah (or RSS) and starve them of funds; they are half-dead. Their nuisance is FINANCED. Cut off the finance supply line… and they choke.

    Immediate task is survival… but there must also be medium-term and long-term goals.. and all of these must be set in a broad vision / picture.

    If water Management is neglected, if rivers are not connected (for optimal use of water)., then God forbid., this could happen every 20 yrs… There has to be a long-term solution… and within that long-term solution… the country should fit in its medium term goal.. and survive…

    Its a long call. The bill is huge. There is no one to foot the bill. Mere words can never do anything. Small charity cannot do huge tasks… Re-construction of Pakistan… would require something in the range of USD 300 Billion (without a single dollar being stolen .. i.e. corruption).

    If things are allowed to slip away…. if the elite.. the ministers.. and the cursed bureaucrats look the other way (or send their families to US/Canada… fearing the impending bloody revolution)… then the natural disaster + the mullah rebelellion… the frustration of the common man.. .the inflation… the quest for ROTI… all would combine into a huge fire… No one can stop Pakistan from a violent revolution… if the crisis is not capped on a war footing. Pakistan is getting RIPE for a revolution… but it can still be saved. Sincerety is needed… if easy-going attitude is displayed… then i am afraid… all the politicians + the bureaucrats… better send their families abroad now… and keep airplanes ready (for their own selves)…

  13. Hello … Need your help with coordination of the relief efforts. Sahana Foundation has developed a disaster management system, which was deployed successfully in Haiti earlier this year. It’s used to track disaster-affected areas and people and to follow relief efforts. They’ve customised the software for Pakistan and you can find it at:
    http://pakistan.sahanafoundation.org/eden

    There will be a training session on how to use the software on Monday (tomorrow, Aug 16) at 4 p.m. at the IBA City Campus. Please spread the word and ask people to contribute whatever data they have, as well as to attend the training session. There will be another session on Tuesday at NED Karachi, which will be broadcasted live to Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar & Faisalabad.

    Thanks!

  14. sid

    A revolution also needs people to unite behind an Idea. Unity is very important for revolution and also a strong leader.

  15. Tilsim

    @ Sid
    “A revolution also needs people to unite behind an Idea. ”
    For that reason there will not be a revolution in the foreseeable future. There is no such single idea that has captured everyone’s imagination.

    What we are witnessing in Pakistan is an evolution around a set of conservative and violent ideas that take Islam as a vehicle. As evolution goes, these ideas can also be countered in the battle for the fittest.

  16. neel123

    @ Raza Rumi,

    The simple fact that comes out of The Telegraph is, Pakistan is not short of cash, as it is still supposed to be sitting on at least 300 million pounds, unused from its earth quake aid funds.

    But if the money has already been diverted to buy exotic weapons by the Pakistani Army, then of course it is a different story …. !

  17. Maryanne Khan

    Aid arrives in Pakistan

    Source: Government of Australia

    Date: 15 Aug 2010

    The first delivery of AusAID stores for those affected by the recent flooding in Pakistan has arrived by Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) C-17A Globemaster in Islamabad.

    Now that the stores have been unloaded, they will be distributed to areas as determined by the Pakistan National Disaster Management Authority.

    AusAID spokesperson Suzanne Edgecombe said the AusAID stores delivered by the ADF will benefit more than 10,000 families affected by the natural disaster.

    “The arrival of much needed aid stores to the people of Pakistan demonstrates the coordination and commitment of a number of Australian Government agencies,” Ms Edgecombe said.

    “AusAID will continue to liaise witthe Pakistan Government, UN partners, Defence and other key stakeholders within Australia to ensure we provide the most effective response to this disaster.”

  18. Zainab Ali

    Its time not to react to each other’s strange theories in Pakistan, but to come together and contribute what you have to help the affected population.