Tag Archives: NDMA

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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Filed under Democracy, disaster

Disaster management – which way now?

Raza Rumi

When the earthquake hit us on the morning of 8th October 2005, we said that the disaster caught us with our pants down. The mini disasters of Cyclone Yemyin in 2007, the Ziarat earthquake in 2008 and the presently unfolding mega disaster suggest that we never bothered to pull our pants up and are continuously trying to cover our nether regions with Post-It stickers. The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) was launched in 2007 with a lot of fanfare but a quick look at the (recently lapsed) National Disaster Management Ordinance tells us that it is another toothless tiger whose job is to ‘coordinate’ among its provincial, regional and district-level counterparts. Now, we are a very funny nation. When it comes to taking responsibility for public, we quickly don our ‘federal’ garb and declare that the centre cannot interfere in a job that is primarily provincial/local. Such commitment to federalism, alas, is never forthcoming when it comes to resource exploitation, but that is another story.

NDMA’s mandate can perhaps be classified into three categories: mainstreaming risk-reduction in development programmes, overseeing contingency planning, and coordinating response to disasters.

Before the media promotes NDMA over Zardari and fake-degree holders, as being chiefly responsible for all our woes, it would be pertinent to look at the organization’s capacities and powers. After its establishment, a retired army official was appointed as its head. It took a while before the consultants hired by the United Nations could come up with an organizational structure. But NDMA could not attract the best of professionals chiefly for the work environment. This resulted in NDMA ending up mostly, with pen-pushers. Continue reading

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Filed under Pakistan

Our reaction to the floods

Raza Rumi

Thousands are dead and injured and millions are displaced due to the floods. The national reaction to this calamitous situation has been that the president should have cancelled his visit to the UK. The president too has not been sagacious. But the debate is frivolous and sidetracks the real issue: our sheer lack of preparedness for natural disasters and emergency management.

Five years ago, a massive-earthquake rocked Pakistan. Later, several institutions such as the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) were set up to deal with natural calamities. While it would be unfair to critique the good work done by the NDMA, it is clear that centralised authorities and relief machinery are of little use in a populous, diverse country like Pakistan.

In the last five years, as the recent floods indicate, the state has done little to galvanise and decentralise disaster preparedness and management. Between 2005 and 2010, the magnitude of natural disasters was not large enough to expose the inherent weaknesses of the emergency infrastructure. As before, Pakistanis have come forward and an unprecedented civic activism and volunteerism can be seen in reaching out to victims of the floods across the country. Continue reading

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Filed under Climate Change, Environment, North-West Frontier Province, Northern Areas, Pakistan, Zardari