How Mistrust of the Government is Hurting Pakistani People and Why Should We Trust

By Raza Habib

Going through the national and international media, one keeps on getting the impression that despite the staggering magnitude of the havoc inflicted by the flood, the response, both domestic as well as international, could at best be termed as sluggish. Given the fact that a huge area is still inundated and catastrophe in the form of widespread disease is looming, the response apparently shows a nonchalant behavior. Internationally almost every famous website and newspaper is pointing towards apathy of the international donations. But the buck does not stop at the international response as unfortunately the domestic response is also mirroring it.

So what could be the reason for this kind of response . The spirit which was seen the earthquake relief in 2005 is not being repeated at the international as well as domestic level.

There are basically two reasons for that. Firstly and perhaps more importantly is the loss of credibility of the State, particularly the government, nationally as well as internationally. This is a serious issue and is hampering the process of donations and aid accumulation. Consequently the people of Pakistan are suffering. Second issue is that the world is still underestimating the damage due to this calamity.

Obviously the scale is not being understood but a deeper and somewhat not openly discussed issue is of the credibility of the state.

Internationally Pakistan’s reputation has really been hit hard due to news of double gaming with respect to Islamic militants. Moreover during the recent years virtually every terrorist act or plan was traced to Pakistan. Although the culprits were non state actors, but the bias has already been developed that Pakistani State is supporting at least some groups of the militants or is simply ignoring them by not taking “strict’ action. The credibility is so badly damaged that despite the fact that Pakistan has lost much more than others due to terrorism and has paid a severe price in terms of stability and loss of lives, the world always see it as a double player. The Taliban sympathetic image has gravely dampened the humanitarian sympathy towards Pakistani people. And on top of it the timing could not have worse as the floods came immediately after the revelation of the controversial Wiki leak files.

What I really find amazing is that assuming even if all the allegations are true, why the ordinary 20 million  flood ravaged poor Pakistanis, should suffer. The committed or perceived to be committed sins of the State should not in principle stop humanitarian aid from positively affecting literally millions of devastated people whose entire destinies have changed due to events of past few days. After all even, assuming that the State is guilty, the actions of poor average Pakistani have not in any way contributed to its actions. Let’s not forget that State in Pakistan is not reflective of people’s aspirations in the first place.

Moreover, although I do not want to forcefully draw a link between terrorist ideology and poverty, but the fact is that one of the appeals of the radical Islamic organizations such as Jamaat al Dawa is that they are often very effective in grass root level work and they through their supportive actions will be able to win sympathies and create a favorable atmosphere for the hardliners to recruit. Moreover, poverty hunger and deprivation may not cause terrorist ideology but surely provides it a conducive environment.

For those who are concerned that we are today living in dangerous times and who feel that nuclear armed Pakistan is spiraling out of stability and is becoming a haven for the terrorism, let me reiterate that failure to help these millions of devastated people will exacerbate the situation and in a short period of time, confirm the worst fears.

I understand and I know that due to negative propaganda of the national media and the rightwing clergy as well as political parties, the West does not have a good image. But right now is the opportunity to effectively counter the negative propaganda and establish through practical demonstration that West is not what these right wing fanatics are projecting.

Another somewhat related factor is the lack of trust in the Government of Pakistan in terms of financial matters, both nationally and internationally. Internationally, Pakistan does not feature very high in several critical rankings and indexes pertaining to corruption and transparency. For example  it fares very poorly  in Corruption Perception Index (139th in increasing order out of 180 ranked) and Failed State index (10th in decreasing order out 177 ranked). These rankings coupled with stories about mismanagement of the aid in 2005 disaster have badly eroded the trust of the Government in the international donors eyes and as a consequence people once again are suffering. There is a substantial level of skepticism in the major international institutional donors regarding the eventual usage of the funds. Stories about the earth quake relief funds being misappropriated have been circulating and really denting the credibility of the government.  For example according to The Daily Telegraph  more than 300 million pounds (370 million euros, 470 million dollars) of aid for the 2005 earthquake, which killed more than 73,000 people, has yet to be handed over to Pakistan’s Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority (ERRA). These kinds of news, even if true, badly hamper the aid accumulation process and unnecessarily punish those who desperately need assistance.

What the donors need to realize is that the response should not be to stop aid but to ensure a mechanism where proper accountability is ensured. Secondly for the small private donors, they should donate to various western NGOs who are working at the grass root in case if they are suspicious of the Government.

But perhaps the most dangerous trend is the complete erosion of Government’s credibility in the affluent middleclass Pakistanis. This is the class which in principle should be the main donor and historically has been donating generously. Right now the level of suspicion and mistrust the middleclass is showing about the government is just extreme and will be catastrophic particularly when the reconstruction starts.

I have been a part of NGO sector as well as the Public sector. Let me assure everyone here that there are certain things which only a Government, no matter how inefficient it is, can do. Most of the people I have come across are willing to give money to charities and small scale private initiatives but not a penny to the Government’s relief fund. Obviously the Government is trying its bid to establish transparency as it is aware the kind of mistrust the media watching middleclass has developed.

For those who are skeptic, and are insisting that charities are a better option, let me point out that in the first phase of immediate relief, charities can be effective. But when reconstruction begins no charity can have the institutional power to repair the badly damaged infrastructure, provide housing and to come up with subsidies to jump start the lost livelihoods. Only the Government can do that and it needs money to do that.

The tax base is already narrow and we are in perpetual deficit. At this hour Government particularly the federal government needs support not the kind of opposition this media is whipping. Yes we should pressurize the government to be transparent but at the same time at least trust them with the money. Donate and then expect transparency.

So please, come out and donate generously and contribute also to the Government relief fund.

24 Comments

Filed under disaster, Pakistan

24 responses to “How Mistrust of the Government is Hurting Pakistani People and Why Should We Trust

  1. NSA

    Professor Walter Russell Mead (at

    blogs dot the-american-interest dot com)

    “There is no single, monolithic American view of Pakistan anymore than there is a single Pakistani view of the United States, but in general American observers have a pretty bleak view of the predominant trends among Pakistani elites. Large numbers of influential Americans believe that Pakistan’s leadership (military as well as civilian) is dragging the country down. American observers tend to believe that while there are many outstanding military officers and civilian business and intellectual leaders, as a whole the Pakistani elite has failed to understand the country’s situation, failed to respond in a sensible and strategic way to the challenges around it — and that its continuing failures have reached a point where the Pakistani ruling elite is a danger to itself and to everybody in its reach. For different reasons, both the political and the military leaders of Pakistan seem to American eyes to be hellbent on a ruinous course that is wrecking the country, destabilizing the neighborhood, and stoking the fires of radicalism and terror in ways that endanger Pakistanis most of all but also create serious dangers for people all over the world.

    Americans are divided over whether the military or the civilian leadership of Pakistan has done the worst job, but most think that both wings of the establishment have contributed substantially to the country’s distress. The military has systematically sacrificed the country’s development to a hopeless and losing struggle against India that blocks the country’s economic and social development and leaves Pakistan weaker, less stable and further behind its giant neighbor every year. Civilian elites are dominated by viciously unprincipled feudal landlords and corrupt dynasties who would rather exploit the population than develop the country. The two wings of the elite create an interlocking deadlock; civilian politicians won’t take on the military’s suicidally blind strategic fixations and the military won’t push through the kind of modernization (serious land reform, education of the peasants, reform of a rent seeking and corrupt bureaucracy) that could break the dark grip of the landlords and give the country some hope. Each wing of the elite would rather collaborate in the country’s destruction by indulging the worst tendencies of the other than take the risks (and exercise the self restraint) that could set the country on a better path.”

  2. Raza Raja

    Right now the existence itself is an issue..and for existence we need help. the West can then take a wholesome view of the dysfunctional institutions, but to punish the ordinary people by not supporting them will be inhuman.
    This appeal is not only for the West but also for the affluent local people who have the resources. It is about there survival also

  3. Henner

    Raza Raja wrote:
    Right now the existence itself is an issue..and for existence we need help. the West can then take a wholesome view of the dysfunctional institutions, but to punish the ordinary people by not supporting them will be inhuman.

    The primary responsibility for helping the ordinary flood victims in Pakistan is that of the Pakistani elite, and not that of the West.

    Up till now, the West has not seen the kind of response from the well-to-do in Pakistan in helping the poor.

    In fact, the stories coming out of Pakistan tell a bleak picture on sharing the human tragedy like the feudal lords diverting the water to save their own lands while causing damage to the poor.

  4. Raza Raja

    @ henner

    kindly read the article and do not just draw conclusions from one comment. I have written in the article that responsibility is of everyone.

  5. ramesh

    its a image problem,the world has seen dual standard in pakistan and a permanent denial mode.asking the world for help,but at the same time refusing indian good will gesture,shame on the leaders for not allowing this goodwill token to reach the effected people.

  6. Sher Zaman

    The trust deficit is certainly making things worse, but this can be improved if only we start thinking about the suffering humanity. Saving a human life is more important at the moment, instead of wailing over the trust deficit thing.

  7. Ali Abbas

    Raza,

    This is a superb article. Very balanced and most importantly of all, it takes the focus back to where it should be: the devastation of our fellow countrymen. I really appreciate your elucidation of the roles of NGOs and the public (Government) sector.

    Thanks

  8. Henner

    Raza Raja wrote: kindly read the article and do not just draw conclusions from one comment. I have written in the article that responsibility is of everyone.

    I did read your article. In fact, it is a well-written article.

    After all even, assuming that the State is guilty, the actions of poor average Pakistani have not in any way contributed to its actions. Let’s not forget that State in Pakistan is not reflective of people’s aspirations in the first place.

    Right now Pakistan has a democratically elected Parliament and Government. How else is the “reflection of people’s aspirations” to be judged?

    ISI has supported the Afghan Taliban who are responsible for the deaths of many ISAF soldiers. The West has also generously supported Pakistan financially in the past. The LSE report, the WikiLeaks all point to ISI financing and directing the Afghan Taliban through the ‘Quetta Shura’! So the money that the West has been giving to the Pakistani Govt. is being used to kill us. And after doing something as horrible as that, Pakistanis have the chutzpah to ask the West for aid!!!

    The Pew Global Research found out, that “there is broad support for harsh punishments: 78% favor death for those who leave Islam; 80% favor whippings and cutting off hands for crimes like theft and robbery; and 83% favor stoning adulterers.” This is not the opinion of the Pakistani State but rather of the people, and it is very extremist.

    Moreover, there is widespread toleration of Al Qaeda and Afghan Taliban in Pakistan. Islamist and Jihadist organizations are mushrooming, and the State does not seem to do anything to put a stop to that.

    The excuse, that the normal Pakistanis and the Pakistani state are two different things, does not wash. If the Pakistani State does not reflect Pakistani opinion, the Pakistani people would have long rebelled against it, and replaced with one, which reflects it better.

    For those who are concerned that we are today living in dangerous times and who feel that nuclear armed Pakistan is spiraling out of stability and is becoming a haven for the terrorism, let me reiterate that failure to help these millions of devastated people will exacerbate the situation and in a short period of time, confirm the worst fears.

    This is the usual blackmail. The West has heard these words many times before!

  9. Raza,

    You are making excellent points here. In response to Henner–nothing here or in the history of Raza’s writing would indicate a lack of understanding about who is most responsible. As in any country, any where, the sitting government is accountable and must lead. Failure to find a way to do so will be a disaster.

    The deep-seated issues of trust both of the wider world for Pakistani leadership and of Pakistanis of all walks of life for its own government is one of the most serious problems the country faces. Without such trust people will continue to avoid paying taxes and preferring back-channel agreements and gray market dealings to official ones.

    Nonetheless–the current calamity, in spite of everything, absolutely requires a robust response from the United States, the West and countries around the world. An anemic response, in which large sums are given but not large enough to save the lives and rebuild the country will be both a human disaster and a recipe for the further erosion of the capabilities and trust that Pakistan’s flawed but nonetheless democratic government has.

    The current situation combining years of low intensity conflict with one of the worst systemic natural disasters in history does not really compare to disasters such as the tsunami, the Haiti earthquake, or Pakistan’s own 2005 earthquake. The devastation is more akin to that wrought by World War II in Europe. Pakistan needs a Marshall Plan and the world would be well-served by developing such a plan, in spite of the difficulties.

  10. Raza Raja

    Thanks ali and steven

    @ henner..

    You know what osama bin ladin once said when he tried to justify killing innocent Americans. He said that since USA is a democracy therefore the Government has people’s will behind it.
    Surely there should be a difference between his way of thinking and civilized way of thinking!!!

    The article was actually trying to stress building trust in Governement. Government needs trust of its own citizens also. Unfortunately the media at our part of the world has just one aim: to undermine the present Government in every way. This in turn will have a catostrophic effect on flooed relief particualrly when rebuilding begins.

    This non sense from media should stop.

  11. rumi

    Apart from the fact of misuse of aid given during the 2005 earthquake, will things be any different when the next natural calamity strikes.
    Where is the assurance that aid given now will not be misdirected towars `strategic depths`?

  12. Tilsim

    @ Rumi

    “Where is the assurance that aid given now will not be misdirected towars `strategic depths`?”

    Is anyone on this blog, seriously able to give such an assurance and under which authority?

    Don’t look at excuses for not helping Pakistan at this time of a human catastrophe.

  13. Pingback: How Mistrust of the Government is Hurting Pakistani People and Why Should We Trust - BlogOn.pk

  14. Tilsim

    @ Sardar Khan

    “If so you must be a verry nave person to expect that Proud Pakistani peple will accept this aid”

    Go and stand infront of the sick, starving and dying and say that with a straight face. I don’t think you will walk away alive.

  15. Raza Raja

    I agree with Tilsim and the sole aim of this article was to stress that government needs to be trusted by both International and domestic donors. Yes make sure that it is made accountable but please trust otherwise we are really going towards mayhem.

    I am not using this real gravity of a situation as some kind of blackmail…

    Its twenty million livelihoods at stake. Normal Pakistanis who do not even know what ISI is? I am not exagerrating, majority of the rural areas have been hit where ideologies do not matter and where all the concern is around meeting the ends meet. They do not know about sophisticated agencies. Their concern is just to earn livelihoods

    Here our stinking media whips up hatred and misconception. The target audience of media is not the majority of Pakistanis. Majority of pakistanis are poor illiterate people who have been ravaged.

    Lets help those and lets trust the government. I am repeating that I have worked with both NGO and Public Sector. In Fact I have been privilged to work with the largest NGO in Pakistan and the largest public sector developmental orgaanization in Pakistan.

    Eventually there are certain things which only Government can do and it needs our trust.

    So please lets trust it and yes make sure that it is accountable.

  16. lal

    @tislim
    Is the Indian offer of 5 million dollers discussed in the Pakistani media.What are the reactions to it.Indian officialdom is quite cagey on when asked about these .They dont want it to be described as ‘political point scoring’.According to Hindu,they are also ready to route it through UN channels if so requested,as she had done so many times with many countries.And the modest initial response can be upgraded depending on the response

  17. Who is this moron Sardar Khan? Does he know that the flood waters originate in the large part on the right bank of the Indus? Does he know left from right? Are members of institutions for the mentally challenged allowed to post comments on PTH? Does he know of something called the Indus Waters Treaty? Does he know of the rules for its observance, and if these have been breached? Does he know…

    Actually, to cut a long story short, does he know what he’s talking about?

  18. Tilsim

    @ lal

    I have read a couple of articles relating to this.

    One from the Daily Times, which lamented the fact that after the 2005 earthquake, more significant aid sent by India was wasted at the border. The article was critical of the Pakistani stance.

    One from Express Tribune, which reported the fact. The majority of people in the comments section were very supportive of accepting the aid and favoured not politicising the issue.

    People are suffering immensely so in many people’s view this aid should not become a political football.

    However, because it’s a relatively small amount and there is so much else to talk about, it’s not figuring in the media discourse. I think sensible Pakistani people understand why it is not a more significant offer (even if there was a will from India to give more).

    What libertarian suggests ($500m offer) would be truly ground breaking and put the cat amongst the pigeons. Sometimes it’s good to use a battering ram to break attitudes. However, I think it’s probably a case of dreaming because such a move would most likely come under a lot of political flak in India.

  19. Tilsim

    @ lal

    Express Tribune has this on it’s front page today.

    “Chairman Ansar Burney Trust International and former Federal Minister for human rights, Ansar Burney has requested President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani to accept the donation offered by the Indian Government for the flood affected areas on humanitarian grounds.

    Burney said that this is the first time that Indian government has shown a very positive attitude towards Pakistan after the Mumbai attacks and the government of Pakistan should respond positively to the gesture for the sake of flood victims and also for the sake of peace in the region.

    “By accepting the donation from India Pakistan could send a positive message to the other side of the border as well and will also help bring the two countries together.” Ansar Burney added.

    ‘400 Indian doctors to arrive in Sindh’

    The Daily Times reports that Indian doctors will be arriving in Pakistan to extend a helping hand in flood relief efforts, particularly in Sindh.

    The Indian civil society, who wants to see peace between both nuclear rivals, will make all arrangements to send these teams. The Indian doctors will work in flood-affected districts of Sindh province, but will avoid visiting Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa because of Taliban threat.”

  20. Raza Raja

    Pakistani Government should accept aid from India. Right now its people are in danger and nothing ranks above the safety of such a vast number of populace.

  21. Mnoor

    Excellent article. I am no fan of the government, but in this catastrophe it is important that everyone supports the government’s efforst.

    The role of NGOs and private sector is also important particularly for providing immediate relief items like food and clothing, but it would be the government that is required to put in place infrastructure for rehabilitation. And we do no need a lot of infrastructure, because unlike earthquake which may or may not happen in near future, the monsoons will come again every year, and the likelihood of a repeat of the flood disaster is much higher.

  22. aliarqam

    Excellent post, dealt all the concerned issues very objectively.
    In fact the Govt. response to the flood devastation is lacking coherence and was very casual in the beginning. After every calamity, every concerned person has to form a relief fund of his own ask the others to donate,not mentioning how much they will contribute to this.
    The state institutions seems to be working in their own way. As Army has formed its Own Army relief fund, as some of my friends received a message from Ufone to donate money for flood affected people in the account of Army Relief Fund.
    The donations will be deposited in an account of GHQ branch of Askari Bank.
    I dont know whether the army is allowed to gather funds.

  23. Henner

    Raza Raja wrote: You know what osama bin ladin once said when he tried to justify killing innocent Americans. He said that since USA is a democracy therefore the Government has people’s will behind it.
    Surely there should be a difference between his way of thinking and civilized way of thinking!!!

    Very interesting!!!

    So if the West denies aid to Pakistanis, it is the same thing as OBL going out of his way to kill Westerners.

    Sometimes I wonder if stupidity is something intrinsic to Pakistan. Is the concept of responsibility even known in Pakistan? Before writing something, why don’t you give it a minute to think over the implications of what you write!

    ISAF and NATO are in Afghanistan with the consent of UN, to stabilize a democratic political setup and a weak economy. The Taliban can enter the democratic fray and represent their people also, if they so wish. Pakistan’s support to Afghan Taliban is destabilizing and has caused many deaths there, both Afghans and ISAF-NATO soldiers. 72% of Pakistanis were against ISAF-NATO being in Afghanistan, according to PEW Survey. The actions of Pakistani State in clandestinely supporting the Afghan Taliban and Pakistan opinion is in sync. So why should the West not hold the Pakistanis responsible for the blood spilled in Afghanistan?

    Pakistan has become the core of evil in the world right now. Almost all terrorism one sees anywhere in Europe, in USA or even in India and Afghanistan, is somehow traced back to Pakistan. Why? Why can’t you people be ‘normal’ people like everybody else? Why are you so intent on the distinction of being called the barbarians of the world?

  24. Raza Raja

    @ henner

    Since you have no clue about my previous writings therfore you have no idea what my detailed point of view regarding terrorism or Pakistan’s state of denial is…
    I have not denied (in fact openly written in the article that all acts have been traced to Paksitan.) But at the same time Pakistan itself has witnessed terrorism and is witnessing blasts on a daily basis. Since you smack of so much arrogance and claim to know then the most, would you please elaborate that if Pakistani state is behind exporting terrorism then why its own people and for that matter own intitutions like army have been targeted by terrorists. even the GHQ was attacked. Several times security personnel were hit. FIA’s office in Lahore was destroyed. Since you are talking down on us, please explainas to why pakistan itself is facing terrorism and even its intelligence agencies such as FIA have been attacked.

    Anyways, I was just responding to your argument that since Government is elected by people therefore whatever it does has full support of the people. And through this logic you tried to prove that Paksitani people should be left to die because apprently government is indulging in terrorism.

    First of all, in pakistan majority of the seats are from rural area and majority of the people are rural peasants who have zero clue about ISI or terrorism or so called support of ISI to taliban. Election in the rural area are fought on local issues only.

    Secondly the establishment in pakistan is often stronger than the demcratic government and is not answerable to them. This is a fact every one knows so therefore establishment’s actions can not be construed as having peopl’s support

    Thirdly most of the surveys are being done on urban middlclass which frankly has these views which you have refered to…that class though dominant on media is in a minority.

    I think the central question is that the ordinary Pakistani who is dying should not be treated with disdain and punished for the percieved sins of the state.

    Any ways since this is an open forum you are perfectly entitled to your views and as a writer I do not expect every one to agree with what I write. In this article some are endorsing my point of view and some dont..

    Fair enough, I have nothing to add…..

    You are just too “sophisticated” and with a heart of gold which is riddled with human “sympathy” and too good for evil Pakistanis like me.