Category Archives: disaster

Collapsing local governance

By Raza Rumi

Recent floods have exposed the capacity of the state to govern, especially at the local level. The disintegration of local state is not a recent phenomenon. The continued experimentation with and frequent strangulation of local governance arrangements have led to a situation that Pakistan’s burgeoning population is now without a representative, accountable local state.

Erosion of state writ: Three historical trends are noticeable for their impact on the overall governance and the writ of the state. First, centralisation is a tendency that is most attractive to those who govern Pakistan at the federal and provincial levels. The post-colonial Pakistani state has retained the official obsession of controlling power and patronage at the top and denuding the local space for democratic development and sound mechanisms of accountability. Secondly, granting local autonomy has, by and large, been a smokescreen for powerful military governments to bypass provincial politics and control the levers of state and society from above. Thus, we have an established pattern: local government experiments flourish under authoritarian regimes and get undermined whenever democracy, a la Pakistani variety, returns. Finally, the constant denial of a responsive state at the local level has led to erosion of state legitimacy and the void has been filled in by mafias, politico-criminal gangs and militant non-state actors.
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Future of a crisis

Raza Rumi

Pakistan’s devastating floods have opened up a Pandora’s Box of governance dysfunctions and historical distortions that have plagued the polity since independence. It remains to be seen what will be the outcome of the greatest calamity in our recent history. Various estimates show that the floods have affected 18-20 million people. The death toll has crossed the figure of 2000 while 2 million houses have been damaged or destroyed. Floodwaters are receding in many areas, and though there are concerns about standing water that remains in Punjab and other areas, the worst of the current flooding is taking place in Sindh.

The disaster is still not over but the fissures within Pakistan have started to erupt and once again proving how vulnerable the state is and how fractured the Pakistani society has become. Five key crises have emerged, some old and some new. However, they point to the fact that our continuous refusal to address structural problems remains a key challenge.

Martial state syndrome: Pakistan’s history is an uninterrupted tale of direct and indirect military rule and centralisation. Each time there is a crisis there is a need to resort to the de facto, real governance paradigm: the military rule. Therefore, Altaf Hussain of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Imran Khan of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) are not saying anything new. The perennial search for a Messiah, rooted in the religious ideology that the state and education system have cultivated, is back in full force. This time the media and other discordant voices are calling for another phase of direct military rule. Continue reading

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The Floods Abroad – Diaspora Action

A A Khalid

The floods have been remarked as an historical event which will change Pakistan’s political and social fabric for the foreseeable future, whether that will be a positive or negative change will remain to be seen and will largely be determined by the crucial decisions Pakistani citizens take.

However, the floods have once again mobilised and made clear the importance of the diaspora communities across the world. In this article I will focus on the British Pakistani community. The efforts of the British Pakistani community have been commendable. For instance the myriad of private Asian television channels in the UK all broadcast large telethons to raise funds for the flood, mosques and cultural centres up and down the country have dug deep in the current economic recession to donate to the cause.

Prominent British Pakistanis, such as Amir Khan and James Caan have done much to use their status as celebrity to highlight the plight of the immense humanitarian crisis. In short one can discern that the Pakistani community has certainly responded to the suffering currently manifesting itself in their native homeland. Continue reading

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Laal Band’s song for the flood vitcims

Laal Band has produced this song for the victims of the recent calamity. Taimur Rehman the lead guitarist has sent this for the readers of PTH. RR

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Generous and timely: US Response to Pakistan’s Disaster

Raza Rumi

Ironic that the United States has been perhaps the most pro-active and generous country in helping us with flood relief. Pakistanis, especially those were stranded for days are grateful for such a timely help. Contrary to the propaganda unleashed by several vested interests about how great friends China and the Muslim countries are, the US has proved to be our friend when we needed it the most.  Yet, there will be many among the skeptics who would term this as ‘strategic’ given the state of things in dear homeland and in its neighbourhood. It is time that we acknowledge what needs to be acknowledged with no ifs and buts. Here is a fact sheet sent to Pak Tea House through reliable sources on the assistance so far. About time the self-styled US haters (rather entrenched in the country) take notice of this. US may have its own interests in stabilizing Pakistan, their response has been (and remains) substantive.

To date, the United States is providing approximately $150 million to support relief efforts in Pakistan, including funding for the operations of the Pakistan National Disaster Management Authority, the UN’s emergency relief plan, and the many local and international organizations responding to this disaster. These funds are also being used to provide critical supplies to flood affected populations.

The U.S. also is providing millions of dollars of additional in-kind and technical assistance. We are expanding pre existing programs in flood-affected areas, providing temporary bridges, and mobilizing significant U.S. military and civilian resources to rescue victims of the disaster and deliver needed supplies. U.S. military and civilian aircraft continue to support flood relief operations.

Through August 22, these aircraft have evacuated 7,835 people and delivered more than 1,600,000 pounds of relief supplies.

Latest Developments: 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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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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