Daily Archives: August 22, 2010

Pakistan floods: Preparing an early recovery plan

Raza Rumi

Millions who have been displaced by the worst floods in Pakistan’s history need an urgent way out of their misery. If anything, the scale of the recent disaster is unprecedented. By all accounts, the worst is not over. In fact, it has not even started.

Where do we stand today? Cumulative estimates of losses are increasing (initial estimates have gone beyond $15 billion) and over 20 million people have been displaced in 71 districts of Pakistan. This is a recipe for chaos and failure. There is no alternative to undertaking urgent planning efforts leading to an early recovery plan.

Learning from 2005: Before an early recovery plan is formulated, learning from the 2005 earthquake is vital. The foremost lesson from that phase of disaster-management relates to the ineffectiveness of setting up centralized bodies such as Earthquake Reconstruction & Rehabilitation Authority (ERRA), which did not deliver the goods. After five years of operation, ERRA “has not even utilized the 50% of the funds earmarked and has to date spent less than 20% on the education sector”, says Usman Qazi who was closely affiliated with the post-earthquake recovery drive.

Another lesson pertained to the installation of parallel structures at all governmental levels thereby leading to duplication of effort and inefficiencies. The Planning Commission must be aware of the pitfalls of creating centralized relief and reconstruction agencies. The earthquake recovery process also witnessed the unnecessary involvement of contractors’ mafia in the reconstruction process. The rural support programmes and other community-based networks delivered far better than contractor-driven relief efforts. Continue reading



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Our duty to help those in distress

Haris Ahmad Khan
I was taking a cursory glance over some TV channels when I halted at a local news-channel. There I saw the first footage of flood waters outrageously destroying houses of innocent villagers and taking away with it, all they had earned by immense hard work. The scenes were tragic. People hanging on to trees to save their lives from the surging flow of water and on the other hand, survivors of the catastrophe bundling under a helicopter to get hold of something to eat or drink. I was in melancholy. Here I was sitting in an air-conditioned room with everything I want and there were people stricken by grief at everything they had lost, sleeping on bare land alongwith their cattle. Many questions raced through my mind. Why are we not helping out our brothers and sisters like we have always done?. Have we become some kind of misanthropists?. Or the people affected by this natural calamity are nonentities?.NO! They are people who work all day long for Pakistan. They are the core of our country’s economy. And now they are in need of help. Our help. Looking up to politicians to help them is a thing of the past as they have failed every time. Now it’s our duty to come forward and save this nation and the people living in it. It’s time to remember the quote “While I know myself as a creation of God, I am also obligated to realize and remember that everyone else and everything else are also God’s creation


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Cricket – a message from Australia

Michael Whitting has sent this message to PTH readers
It might seem odd to some people that I’m again contacting you about cricket, given the other problems that Pakistan is facing. But I want your readers to know how thrilled I and many other fans of cricket are that Pakistan has won another Test game.
The result of a game of cricket is in no way comparable to the health and dislocation problems arising from the floods, or the more general issues of management to be addressed by the national government, but in its own way it provides a glimmer of hope for better things for the country.
In the game the seam bowlers again bowled superbly and the team’s newest spin bowler demonstrated that there are many, many batsmen around the world who will be troubled by him. Additionally team management had the good sense to recall Yousuf to stabilise the middle order batting. The team was in control of the game for its entirety, during which there was a level of maturity not found on the last tour of Australia.
I’m not sure how many cricket fans around the world know that Pakistan can no longer play cricket in their own country. This is another factor to be considered in the victory. How would India, Australia – or any nation really – cope with playing all their matches on tour against crowds supporting their opponents?
Congratulations Pakistan!


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Humanity defied: flood relief and politics of faith

Usman Ahmad has sent this exclusive post for PTH that highlights yet another fissure in our collective conduct – denying relief to people on the basis of their faith is cruel and inhuman. We strongly condemn the treatment meted out to minorities even in these disastrous times. Each time such a report makes news, we are cruelly reminded that this is neither Jinnah’s Pakistan nor the country envisioned by millions who moved to this land in 1947. Raza Rumi

There is increasing evidence to suggest that in their efforts to relieve the victims of the recent floods the authorities and elements of the local population have taken upon themselves the right to decide whom among them is actually ‘deserving’ of aid. This may, to some extent have been justified had there been a clearly set forth criteria for prioritisation based on factors like, the age, gender and the health of victims or the extent of loss and injury suffered by those displaced in the disaster. But in the flood-affected areas of south Punjab, when it comes to the Ahmadis, the over-riding concern seems to be their religious beliefs and not the common bond of humanity.
Since flooding began, almost 450 Ahmadi families have been displaced in the districts of Muzaffargarh, Dera Ghazi Khan and Rajanpur. Many have been turned away from relief camps and other accommodation, either for fear of ‘unrest’ or because of pressure from local clerics and the lay population, while most have been left to fend for themselves. Not only this, but Ahmadis have also seen Fatwa’s issued that they should not be lent any form of assistance.
According to the spokesperson of the community, Mr Saleem-ud-Din, absolutely no help or relief has been offered to the Ahmadis by the authorities. “We do not make any demands from the government”, he said, “but in the initial stages of the relief operation they should have deployed their various resources, to help the region’s Ahmadis, in the same way that they assisted the non-Ahmadi population. Not a single boat or helicopter was used to rescue Ahmadi families. Instead, the Jama’at hired whatever transport we could and rescued the stranded victims ourselves. When all this is over the Jama’at will itself undertake the task of reconstructing their homes. We expect nothing from anyone.”
In Basti Rinda, not only were the Ahmadis offered no assistance to evacuate the town but were threatened with a lathi charge if they did not make their own arrangements to leave the area. According to one Ahmadi, Muhammad Iqbal Sehrani, the rest of the population were assisted in the evacuation immediately provided with food and shelter. Later, under pressure from locals, Ahmadis were ejected them from a number of private homes where the owners had given them shelter and were forced to look for rented accommodation during this time of crises.
Elsewhere an aid-worker who had visited Rajanpur told me that he was approached by locals who warned him not to assist the Ahmadis there because they ‘rejected’ the Prophet Muhammad. Members of the Jama’at have also been turned away from relief camps in Muzaffargarh.
Owing to this chronic lack of help, almost 200 hundred Ahmadis have sought shelter in Rabwah, where they are being accommodated in guest houses or private homes. There the Jama’at has taken upon itself to provide them with food and any other assistance they may require.
South Punjab has proved a hotbed of anti-Ahmadi feeling in the past. A number of cases have been registered against Ahmadis in the area under the various provisions of the Blasphemy Law, while in 2003, the head of the Ahmadi community in Rajanpur, Mr Mian Iqbal Ahmad, was murdered in a religiously motivated target killing.
The hideous spectre of hate and discrimination continues to haunt the country even in this time of great peril and casts further doubt on the ongoing relief efforts which many Pakistanis have come to view with suspicion. Instead of putting each other’s differences aside and fostering a spirit of togetherness, there are still elements who seek to use every possible opportunity to foster mutual discord. In the wake of the May 28 terror attack in Lahore, there were many who insisted that despite their religious differences, Ahmadis were citizens of Pakistan and had the right to be recognised. Now more than ever these sentiments need to be put into realised and the country needs to unite in order to overcome this terrible tragedy.



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Media buzz: Another Martial Law In Making?


After reading the article on Media in Pakistan by Bilal Qureshi, many thoughts crossed my mind. Although I am a complete anti conspiracy theory person, but it is quite evident, looking at the media circus of Pakistan, that there is in fact a conspiracy and bias reflected by the media.

The conspiracy is actually, keeping the people and masses in the dark by constantly flashing a “grand conspiracy theory”, in front of them.    The “grand conspiracy” being perpetrated by the “West” and all Non Muslim states, especially India and Israel. All of this because, after all Pakistan is the citadel of Islam and all anti Islamic forces want it to be annihilated. This is the sole reason for the Anti Islamic forces to band together and destabilize the otherwise tolerant and reasonable Pakistan.

If you dig deeper into all of these assertions, you can easily deduce a conclusion, the. TV anchors and the news paper columnists intend to keep the fear factor alive. The fear factor, is that the country faces extreme external threats, and the defense of the country from such threats is extremely paramount. Now, if you put two and two together, it is so obvious that the mouth pieces are actually promoting the agenda of the so called “guardians of the nation.”

Bottom line is that so long as the people are going to buy into this, the people are going to look into the military as their sole defenders and perhaps their sole source of “good governance.” The Pak Military’s involvement in politics dates back to early 50’s. This was hardly after a few years of its ill fated independence. From there on it is directly and or indirectly involved in the governance of this nation.

There is no denying of the fact that, we have incompetent political leaders. But another painful reality is, that the political arena has always been set to fail by the Khakhis. In other words, even if the most learned and competent leaders miraculously emerge, they are not going to last, as the real rulers at GHQ will not let them succeed. Continue reading



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