Pakistan’s Fatal Revolution Viral


Having been dragged by the horses ridden by politicians and military despots through the mud for 63 years, the notion of a revolution has not failed to enter the mind of Pakistanis as a saw to cut and break free from this chain of humiliation manacling them.

Recently this feeling and thought has become stronger in Pakistan by the intensity of its pervasiveness fueled by the revolts in Tunisia and Egypt. Pakistanis reason the absolute and dire need of a revolution in their country by stating how either they’re in the same or worser conditions than that of the two Arab nations.

 

 

One might question them, have they followed the events or studied the situations in both the aforementioned countries? Egypt is under the tyrannical rule of an obstinate dictator since he assumed power on October 14, 1981.

With an already-imposed Emergency Rule since 1967, Mubarak exercised his totalitarian muscle a great deal by depriving Egyptians of their basic human rights, suspending their civil liberties, stunting their social growth, curbing any freedom especially freedom of expression by strict and savage means   with an era that ensued of fraudulent elections, inflation, poverty, political persecutions, unemployment, corruption and illegal arrests. Om id Dunya has been survivng under a brute.

Reflecting was the case in Tunisia under the grip of Ben Ali.

While inflation and poverty et al maybe the similarities between Pakistan and Egypt, there’s a visible contrast in between which includes the chiefly important political landscape and the Civilian-Military imbalance of power.

People in Pakistan demand a revolution but a revolution against what? A Government they themselves elected in 2008? What a farce!

 

 

If its to remove the ‘American Puppets’ that ‘have sold the nation’s dignity’, who elects them again and again after getting carried away in the flow of emotionally-charged election speeches of the puppets? The very Pakistani nation now rallying for an uprising!

Pakistan suffers and continues to do so but largely because of the nation itself (minus the years of the forcibly saddled authoritarian rulers to our backs).

With an attitude of placing petty allegiances to parties over the country, dangerous divisions into sects, ethnic separations, indifference towards the erosion of Pakistan’s heritage, abandonment of culture due to sweeping shame felt in owning it and a despicable and damaging ‘conspiracy mindset’ that is developing which ascribes anything that happens in the land of 796,095 kmof area as a work of ‘vile foreign forces’ – to rife dishonesty from the farmer to the Parliament and a frazzled moral and social fabric – Pakistan in no way can afford or requires a revolution with these  inadequacies.

The entire world has witnessed the surreal, perfect religious harmony amongst the Egyptian Muslims and Coptics during the January 25 revolt. While Muslims prayed, Christians formed a human ring around them for protection.

When the Muslim Brotherhood members raised Pro-Muslim slogans at Tahrir Square which implied that Egypt was for Muslims only, they were stopped by Egyptian Muslims who declared Muslim and Christians are all Egyptians and a new shout:

“Egyptian people here we stand,

Muslim Christian hand in hand!”

During the prayers at the Square, priests and imams prayed for Egypt together. When the Imam was leading the prayers, Christians’ repeated after him in louder voices so that all Muslims could hear.

Even gender boundaries transcended as women and men prayed together.

Can this ever be the case in Pakistan where there is a stark wave of subliminal intolerance being infused into even the minds of the educated? Had it been that Muslims and Christians had stood together to pray, the Mullahs would’ve raised the cry of blasphemy and a deluge of fatwas would’ve swept the country. Had they seen women praying with men, threats would’ve tumbled down upon all those who participated in it.

Egyptians showed their awe-inspiring sense of nationhood by forming committees to clear the areas where they protested every morning after millions had gathered there the night before.

Groups were organized to guard the museums and properties and possessions of people, while all those who were skilled in their professions came running to provide help and assistance to their fellow countrymen – such as the doctors who aided the injured freely.
Does Pakistan need a revolution to adopt this spirit?

Did not this nation pull down Musharraf?

We’re not worthy of a change with our stagnant ways which smell of stench.
And thats where and what we have to change.

With the nation sunk in disagreements and tiffs,  wide possibilities of religious exploitation leading to extremism, some insisting the system of democracy should continue and the others pressing on Khilafat to be installed, even if a revolution takes place – anarchy, looting, killing would envelop the country and all hell would break loose with the advent of a civil war.

Pakistan would fall apart if a revolution takes place.

The solution is to let the democratic system go on, no matter how defected it seems to be currently. It will naturally strengthen the vital organs of the state (Judiciary, Media etcetra) to an extent that they start ironing out the loopholes in the institution of democracy itself in Pakistan, clearing the path for it to operate as it should.

 The failure of individuals in the system to deliver should not make one ascribe those to the system.

Too many times in Pakistan’s history have democratic governments been overthrown and at the end, such a mess had been carefully crafted that it proved to be the perfect excuse for the boots to come marching in.

Systems can not be overhauled for individuals. Democracy is a culture along with being a system, that needs to be cultivated. It requires time which this nation, that has resisted years of several dictatorships, refuses to give.

To see how democracy functions if facilitated with patience and continuity, one must not look any farther than India.

The nation must also aim for unity, an evolution, an intellectual revolution and aspire to establish the values Jinnah and Iqbal had wanted for their Pakistan.

 

Pakistanis must change their attitudes and themselves along with rationally analysing the situations to bring about a difference in their country, for virals can never be the remedy for any ill, in this case, the ills of Pakistan.

– Hafsa Khawaja

Advertisements

From Fascination To Inspiration : What Tunisia’s Revolt Signifies & Teaches Us



 
Seldom does the world get to witness nations standing up to take hold of their country from tyrannical heads and their atrocious hands.

Recently it did, watching in fascination as Tunisians came out on the streets to revolt against the corrupt and autocratic government of Ben Ali, their President in power since 1987.
 


What eventuated this uprising in opposition of unemployment, inflation and for civil liberties that lead to Ben Ali absconding the country just after 29 days of unrest as a young, jobless man Muhammad Bouazizi.
 
International Business Times writes about him under the title  ‘The Story of Mohammed Bouazizi, The Man Who Toppled Tunisia’ :
 
“Mohamed Bouazizi was a 26-year-old Tunisian with a computer science degree.

Like millions of angry and desperate Tunisians, he faced the unpleasant combination of poor employment prospects and food inflation. Moreover, the Tunisian government was seen as corrupt and authoritarian.
By December 17, resentment against authorities has been brewing for a while.
To make ends meet, the unemployed Bouazizi sold fruits and vegetables from a cart in his rural town of Sidi Bouzid, located 160 miles from the country’s capital Tunis. He did not have a license to sell, but it was his sole source of income.

On December 17, authorities confiscated his produce and allegedly slapped his face.
Bouazizi became incensed.
                                                                                                                                                          

He then drenched himself in gasoline and set himself on fire outside the governor’s office. Bouazizi survived his initial suicide attempt. After being transported to a hospital near Tunis, he was visited by President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali before passing away on January 4.

 

 

After his suicide attempt, unrest broke out in Sidi Bouzid. The police cracked down on the protestors, which only fueled the movement. The revolt eventually spread to the capital city.”
 
For decades, many a nations under totalitarian regimes have eagerly fancied the idea of a revolution – waiting for the ‘right time’ and a leader to take them forward to actualize it but Tunisians have shown that when it comes to taking back the ownership of their country, no nation needs a leader rather their actions have asserted the reality that nations are their own leaders.
 
Those who had been following the unfolding of events in the Arab country since December had their thoughts about the marches, protests and riots dangling between doubts over their success yet the citizens of Tunisia proved that it is people like them who deserve a country and freedom – for they value and fight for it and in the end, the power and will of the people is what will always surface to reign high.


 
Award-winning columnist and an international public speaker on Arab and Muslim issues, Mona El-Tahawy has penned-down a notable piece on the happening in The Washington Post:
                                                                                                                                                              

For decades, a host of Arab dictators have justified their endless terms in office by pointing to Islamists waiting in the wings. Having both inflated the egos and power of Islamists and scared Western allies into accepting stability over democracy, those leaders were left to comfortably sweep “elections.”
                                                                                                                                                      

Ben Ali was elected to a fifth term with 89.62 percent of the vote in 2009.


All around him is a depressingly familiar pattern. Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi (68 years old) has been in power since 1969; Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh (64) has ruled since 1978 and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak (82) since 1981. Algeria’s Abdelaziz Bouteflika (73) is a relative newcomer, having been in power only since 1999. Not so much fathers as grandfathers of their nations, these autocrats cling to office – and are increasingly out of touch with their young populaces.

No doubt, every Arab leader has watched Tunisia’s revolt in fear while citizens across the Arab world watch in solidarity, elated at that rarity: open revolution.”

This is not only a matter of much relevance and significance for Arabs but also countries like Pakistan, which today staggers towards the precipice of danger finding it hard to balance the burden of terrorism, inflation, poverty, rife corruption, institutional dysfunctions etc – hoisted on its back by years of military rule and political tug of wars for control of the state.
                                                                                                                                                           

One hopes that the result of the Tunisian rebellion and revolt is a domino effect. Are Egypt, Algeria, Jordan, Syria or Pakistan next? After all, the nations of these countries do possess simmering feelings of frustration and have been forced to swallow too many bitter pills over the years.
                                                                                                                                                              

Every population is as capable as that of Tunisia to kick start a movement of dissent yet what most of them lack currently is the will, unity and valor of the Tunisians to exercise this, for which they must be saluted.
  
An Egyptian friend and youth pertinently comments on the whole situation:
                                                                                                                                                             

All we lack is the start. What started it in Tunisia is one of the most commonly incidents that you can see daily, a simple man burning himself up protesting for being unemployed, which led to one of the biggest protests in the Tunisian history…

We also need to realize that its our own countries not theirs (rulers), so every right in these countries is ours, not them being so ‘kind’ giving them to us. We should be the feared side.

While it may be too soon or facile to term this revolt a complete success, it has come to symbolize what can be labeled as an inspiration for countless countries and future order of events.
 

 Vive Le Tunisia!

 

– Hafsa Khawaja

Taming The Wild One : Media In Pakistan


Carte blanche for anything leads to an unhealthy atmosphere to be created in the sphere of its activities.

In a country where events have lead to the people lending unparallel countenance to the media, the line that should have been long drawn between freedom for the media and abuse of freedom seems to have self-effaced.

 

Media, both print and electronic, has become an important instrument in weaving a society’s ideologies and opinions both politically, mentally, emotionally and socially but in a country like Pakistan where for the past 63 years; the nation has been jerking between the rules of corrupt politicians and power-thirsty Generals which has nurtured the feelings of divestiture, infuriation and pessimism amongst them; the media with its raging political expositions and uncovering of happenings swept under the carpet by those running the country – has surfaced as a significant organ which is immensely trusted and supported by the people.

Media ethics have dwindled in the storm of the 21st Century that has left behind a plethora of ‘psuedo intellectuals’, anchors, journalists and a spate of private media channels.

Its influence on the mind of the average Pakistani has swollen to an enormous extent that almost boundless reliance and confidence is bestowed unto them.

Rather than informing people, the media has begun to feed them news that they wish to and each word of it is believed resulting into the paucity of much-needed critical thinking amongst them.

This utmost belief has also let the media commence with whatever they plan in the run for booming ratings or reader/viewership, without any questioning thus the swift corrosion of media ethics and principles.

 

It’d be apt to quote Arundhati Roy here:

 “In the race for sensationalism the line between reporting news and manufacturing news is becoming blurred.”

  

 

Impartiality seems to have withered visibly with open bias seeping into what is written and reported. One-sided stories, deceptive and misleading headlines and fallacies have become rampant.

Interpretive journalism with sharp visible tones of personal opinions has rocketed causing a considerable abrasion of neutrality.

Thomas Patterson, a Professor of Government & the Press at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government guages the reasons that breed negativity in news in his book ‘The Vanishing Voter’ which can be associated to journlaism here also:

 [Excerpts]:

 “Interpretive reporting has unleashed the skepticism traditional in journalism. This style requires reporters to give shape to the news, and they tend naturally to shape it around their perspective on politics. To the journalist, politics is not a struggle over policy issues. They see it largely as a competitive game waged between power-hungry leaders. Politicians’ failings and disputes are played up; their successes and overtures are played down.”

 

Bashing political figures with boisterous, unjustified insolence and a brazen condescending attitude has slipped into the garb of a growing fad while sensationalism (which is defined as “the notion that media outlets often choose to report heavily on stories with shock value or attention-grabbing names or events, rather than reporting on more pressing issues to the general public. In the extreme case, the media would report the news if it makes a good story, without much regard for the factual accuracy or social relevance.” ) and yellow journalism coupled with impudent insensitivity, have transformed into a raging conflagration.

 

American historian and journalist Frank Luther Mott had defined yellow journalism in terms of five characteristics:

1. Scare headlines in huge print, often of minor news

2. Lavish use of pictures, or imaginary drawings

3. Use of faked interviews, misleading headlines, pseudo-science, and a parade of false learning from so-called experts

4. Emphasis on full-color Sunday supplements, usually with comic strips (which is now normal in the U.S.)

5. Dramatic sympathy with the “underdog” against the system.

It is undisputably conspicuous from here, that some of these characteristics do exist widely in Pakistani media.

The need of the hour is certainly a code of conduct for the press and media in Pakistan.

The last was adopted by the General Assembly of the Committee of the Press on May 17, 1972 – with only 17 points and those too in accordance with the situations 39 years ago.

In October 2002, the government issued a new code as part of the “Press Council of Pakistan Ordinance”, though published under a military government, it is comparatively better than the former.

The Pakistani Government needs to revise, update, make alterations and additions in the previous documents of media conduct or chart out an entirely new comprehensive code of ethics which neither provides or is used as a tool for advantage by any of the two parties (Government and the media), which addresses and establishes accountability of the expanding affairs related to the media of today and ensures the prevention of misdemeanor by journalists and the media-men.

 

Even India’s Norms of Journalistic Conduct is a much particularized set of rules.

Ranging from Pre-publication Verification, Parameters of the right of the Press to comment on the acts and conduct of public officials, discernment between Conjecture, comment and fact, / encouragement of social evils to be eschewed, Covering communal disputes/ clashes, Reporting on natural calamities and Investigative journalism, its norms and parameters – it is characterized enough to deal with the emerging matters and activities of the media in this decade.

Keeping in view the stage of our budding media, the introduction of restraints and limits concerning the print and electronic media has become a compulsion of time. They need to be made and put into effect immediately so that our media evolves into a mature and responsible structure whose rightful freedom, position and flamboyance is preserved and protected while guaranteeing it complies to remain inside the set boundaries.

 

Most importantly, the regulations should be enforced and strictly actuated with their following stringently monitored by either a Government or autonomous body – for implementation of laws and plans is one of the basic problems in Pakistan.

A position paper titled ‘Codes of Conduct’ by Mike Jempson, Director of ‘The Press Wise Trust’ is a commendable work that concisely provides an understanding of why the code is required and the plan to sketch it and implement it.

It also mentions:

  “Media freedom is NOT about allowing those who can afford to own media outlets, or who work as journalists, to do what they wish (to make money or obtain political advantage); it is about guaranteeing the public the right to receive and communicate information and ideas.

 As The Press Wise Trust puts it: ‘Press freedom is a responsibility exercised by journalists on behalf of the public’.

The position of the media of any country forms an essential part in the criterion to judge the state of matters there and an independent media is the cornerstone of a democratic government but a sense of aversion and a feeling of distastefulness is developing towards the media in Pakistan due to the wrong direction it is taking its given freedom towards.

Rather than availing it, it is being abused.

I A Rahman, in his piece titled ‘Balance or Power’ states:

“The Pakistan media has almost always been the victim of excesses by governments, democratic as well as dictatorial, though the former cannot be as highhanded as the latter. As a result, the media has developed a persecution syndrome that has bred an exaggerated feeling of self-righteousness on the one hand, and an aversion to self-criticism on the other hand. Neither can be defended all the time, and the present appears to be a good opportunity for the media to do some soul-searching.”

 

So as the media gallops, wildly, to enjoy its independence on Pakistani soil – it must be tamed before it tramples much on the very ground.

 

– Hafsa Khawaja

‘We Are The World’ For Haiti? Not For Pakistan?


When earthquake hit Haiti this January 2010, the world rose in unison to help the victims of the deadly shake with many nations generously chipping in to donate for the people and governments munificently sending billions of dollars of aid and displatching relief teams to the country.

But today, when Pakistan has been hit by the most devastating floods in its history, which have been termed as “the greatest humanitarian crisis in recent history with the number of people suffering possibly to exceed the combined total in three recent megadisasters – the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the 2005 Kashmir earthquake and the 2010 Haiti earthquake” by the UN, it seems that the world has started to suffer from a ‘donor fatigue’ or has intentionally closed its eyes and ears to the cries and pleas of the flood-hit Pakistanis.

 

While it is true, that the number of people killed in the Haitian Earthquake were more than those killed in the floods but according to statistics and figures available it can be known that around 20 million have been affected, thousands injured or left homeless with their families separated from them, over 722,000 houses damaged or destroyed, 70,000 children at a risk of dying of malnutritioon and around 6 million can lose their lives in the second expected wave of death likely to be caused by a combination of lack of clean water, food shortages and water-borne and vector-borne diseases.

It has become apparent that those in other countries seem to ignore the current state of people in Pakistan considering the type of image that is portrayed of the country by much of the Western media – of a terrorist and barbaric nation that only breeds intolerance and extremism despite the fact that it is the single most nation that has bore the brunt of terrorism the most.

But some like Liz Borkowski have come to realize that the catastrophe is not being met with the appropriate response as it should. She has written a post on why the floods here are not receiving as much aid and attention as Haiti. Writing as :

“The UN has requested $459 million for emergency relief and has received or gotten commitments for 35% of that. The majority of that has come from the US and UK governments reports Nathaniel Gronewold of Greenwire.  Aid agencies report that responses from individual US donors have been slow, though.

On the list of possible factors behind the lag in individual US donations, Gronewold starts with “public opinion of Pakistan” and cites a June CNN poll showing “78 percent of Americans hold mostly unfavorable views of Pakistan.” I’d like to think people can hold an unfavorable opinion of a country but still be willing to help its citizens get food and water after a natural disaster; maybe when it comes to donations, though, decisions aren’t entirely rational.

I expect the slow pace of donations is mostly a function of less media coverage (compared to the Haiti earthquake). It’s not like the major news organizations are failing to cover Pakistan’s disaster at all, but so far I don’t think I’ve seen many stories about individual families’ struggles – and those are the pieces that spur donations. ” 

One UN assessment in the province Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) found: “37% of women in households surveyed were consuming less food than men, while 50% of households reported having no food for an entire day.”

The UN asked for $460 million to fund an emergency response. So far, donors have contributed or pledged $148 million, or 32% of the total.   The top donors are the United States ($75,621,599), the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund ($26,595,962) The United Kingdom ( $40,235,085 ) Denmark ( 26,595,962 ) and Private individuals and organzations ($10,510,184).

 After visiting flood-ravaged areas of Pakistan, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, “In the past I have visited the scenes of many natural disasters around the world, but nothing like this.”

Approximately, 1/5 th of Pakistan is under water. 

Elizabeth Ferris at ReliefWeb has prepared an excellent analysis and report on the comparison between the Haiti Earthquake and Pakistan Floods, compiling a data as follows:

Haitian earthquake Pakistan flooding
Date of disaster 12 Jan 2010First OCHA Situation Report: January 12 Late July 2010 (First reports of flash floods in Baluchistan on July 23, floods in KPK starting around July 26/27)First OCHA Situation Report: July 29
National population 2009   10.2 million 166.1 millionii
Deaths   220,500iii 1,539iv
Injured   Over 300.000v 2,055vi
Displaced Est. 1.8 million (1.3 within Port-au-Prince, 500.000 leaving Port-au-Prince) vii Est. 6 million in need of shelter(August 23)
Total affected/as percentage of total national population 3 million (29.4 %)ix 17.2 millionx (10.35 %)
       

 

Houses destroyed/damaged    105.000/208.000xi 1,226,678 (August 23)xii
Schools destroyed/damaged    1,300xiii 7,820xiv
Hospitals destroyed/damaged    50xv 200xvi
Original UN Flash appeal launched     15 January: xviiUS $ 575 million  11 August: xviiiUS $ 460 million
International pledges 2 weeks after flash appeal as percent of total appeal     82 %xix   57 %xx
Flash appeal funded 100 %  16 February (35 Days)xxiOn Feb 18 revised Humanitarian Appeal is launched requesting US $ 1.4 billion for 1 year (includes the $575 Million of the flash appeal)
US pledges    US $ 211.6 millionxxii (part of the extended 1.4 billion US $ appeal)   US $ 150 millionxxiii (August 23)
Appeal by International Federation of the Red Cross/Crescent Society      US $ 103 million US $ 74 million
Number of tents/plastic sheets distributed 3 weeks after     10,545/11,390 (February 3)xxiv 109,500/72,200 (August 23)xxv
% of displaced receiving tents/tarpaulins (after three weeks)      1.2 % 3.0 %
Donation per affected person received after 2 weeks of flash appeal      US $ 157.16 US $ 15.24
Role of US military Deployed 22,000 troops,58 aircrafts,15 ships;oversaw airport operations,

rehabilitated the harbor,

distributed aid, hospital ship

15 helicopters,as of August 24 the U.S. military had delivered 1.5 million pounds of relief supplies and food,and helicopters had rescued or transported about 6,500 people.xxvi
Health concerns  Traumatic injuries,including crushing Injuries,high needs for surgery, infections Water-borne illnesses (diarrhea, cholera),skin-disease,acute respiratory disease
Protection concerns Trafficking of children;gender-based violence in camps,generalized insecurity Early reports of separated families, a few landmine victims,discrimination against lower castes,women-headed households
Shelter concerns Land tenure issues, rubble clearance Land markers washed away by floods, mud removal
       

 

Political concerns Interrupted Haitian election timetable,governance questions and relief effort; Potential strengthening of fundamentalist groups,destabilization and delegitimization of government
Economic concerns 70 % of Haiti’s GDP is generated in the Port-au-Prince area which has been most heavily impacted by the disaster, massive destruction of infrastructure Massive destruction of infrastructure, 3.2 million hectares of standing crops have so far been damaged or lost;widespread loss of livestock
Logistics Destroyed airport, harbor, roads.Generally bad infrastructure;Particular logistics difficulties in Port-au-Prince and surroundings Destroyed roads, bridges;some areas only accessible by helicopter;20% of the country flooded
Total GDP 2009 xxvii    US $ 6.5 billion US $ 166.5 billion
GDP per capita 2009 nominal    $733 $1,017
Estimated Damage    US$ 7.8 billionxxix Est. US $ 15 billionxxx
Estimated Damage as percentage of GDP    119 % 9 %
Reconstruction Pledges March 31 – Donors pledge US $ 9.9 billion of which US $ 5.3 billion is pledged over 2 years (requested US $3.9 billion). Aug. 22 – World Bank US $ 0.9 billion Asia Development Bank US $ 2.0 billion (loans)
Corruption Perception Index 2009 (out of 180)    160 139
HDI 2009xxxii (out of 182)    149 141
Media stories 10 days after the disaster xxxiii Well over 3,000 stories in both print and broadcast media respectively by day 10 and by day 20      320 broadcast news stories and 730 print news stories
Top 10 donors (pledges) Venezuela US$ 2.417 mInter-American Development Bank US$2.000 m

USA US$ 1.152 m

European CommissionUS$ 567m

IMF US$ 436 m

Spain US$ 427 m

World Bank US $ 399 m

Canada US $ 387 m

InterAction members

US $ 322 m

(Donor’s Conference) xxxiv

USA US $161.9 mSaudi Arabia US $114.4 m

UK US $108 m

European Commission US $93.5 m

Private Donors US $84.2 m

Germany US $32 m

Australia US $31.8 m

CERF US $26.6 m

Norway US$ 14.8 m

Japan US$ 14.4 m

(Flash Appeal) xxxv

 

 So why this difference? When over eighty international artists collaborated for the song ‘We Are The World’ for Haiti, why have not international celebrities other than a few (George Clooney, Tom Cruise, Angelina Jolie, Ashton Kutcher) and sportsmen spoken about or rallied for the distressed and hopeless people of Pakistan who now neither have nothing to look back to nor a future to look to until people help them? If Haiti was poor, it should be remembered that Pakistan too is a developing country with rsising poverty and inflation. Does there not even a speck of sympathy and empathy reside in our hearts anymore? Why such slim coverage of this catalysm that has struck a nation already struck by many jolts?

 

I urge everyone to raise awareness about the flood-wrecked families in Pakistan and the need for the world to show their compassion and donate, for those in Pakistan are equally human and their lives equally important as those in other parts of the world.

 

RISE FOR HUMANITY.

 

– Hafsa Khawaja

Uncoverings Of The Flood : Balochistan Govt’s Inaction : Are We Nurturing The Deprivation In Balochis?


As posted on LUBP :

“Balochistan has a history of bearing the brunt of feudalism, the chameleionic political scenario and  the extreme natural calamities of flooding and drought, both which blow the remaing normalcy of life there into smithereens.
Latterly, Southern Pakistan has been hit by a wave of torrential rains that have affected the lives of about 50,000 in parts of the province and yet dismayingly the response of the Provincial Government has been nothing more than apathetic :

Tens of thousands of people have been left marooned, countless killed and numerous missing and others rendered homeless as almost six districts of Eastern Balochistan have been struck by wild onrush rains and most villages, towns and districts have either submerged into the flood water or been completely bashed out by them but the people in these zones are yet to be approached by rescue teams or vacated to safer places.

 

Hundreds of people are either stranded, trapped or living under open skies with no access to relief or even the basic necessities of food that they need for survival. These local people have contested the claims of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) of dispatching relief or food supplies to them, refuting them while waiting for the Federal Government to announce any substantial financial assistance for them, those who lost their lives or those who lost their entire belongings, food stock, household goods and valuables in flash floods.

Most of the province has been cut-off from the rest of the country as a result of the explicit damage and destruction of its communication system and the vehicular transport system which links it with the cities around and other human settlements has been suspended or immobilized.

There is also a marked threat of outbreak of epidemics in the flood affected regions as there is a lack of food, clean water and medication leave alone substantial medicine and medical staff which are even unapproachable for easily-treatable cases of snake-bites that have been reported from villages but could not be treated as the rescue teams have not arrived or are short of medical articles such as snake-bite serum.

 

The Wazirabad village of Bakhtiarabad in Lehri Tehsil is the worst-affected area and such is the situation there that dead bodies are decaying for nothing is available for neither the funeral nor the people to bury them.

 
 
Over 57,000 people have been affected in Sibi, Lehri, Barkhan.The floods have damaged 90% of the houses, over 50% livestock and agriculture.
And according to the district agriculture and revenue departments these floods have broken the past records of 1978.

 

“In Tambo Tehsil of Nasirabad, more than 30,000 people have been made homeless while crops have been completely washed-out in the canal-irrigated area.

Around 0.2 million people had been affected by floods in six districts of Balochistan where rescue and relief work had been slow and inadequate. Roads, power transmission lines and railway tracks have been destroyed in the district.

Despite the massive destruction, relief work had not started in Tambo tehsil.”

This cataclysm was and is a testing time for both the Balochistan Government and other governmental organs which constitute the body of the provincial government and it is discernible now that there has been a miscarriage from the provincial government’s side in fulfilling their responsibilities.

The Balochistan Health Directorate has failed to discharge medicines to the flood-hit areas and even the districts where emergency has been declared, which has led to some deaths.

The Provincial Government’s response to this cataclysmic inundation has been slow, impassive and lackadaisical.

July to September, are the defined monsoon months of Pakistan and Balochistan has a history of ruinous floods which occurred numerous times including in 70’s, 80’s and the 90’s. One of the main tasks of the management, administration and government are to plan, co-ordinate, manage and ensure the implementation of their decisions.

When it is a well-known fact that the province is at a constant threat of floods in the Monsoon season, why did not the provincial government pre-plan a strategy before the rains to prevent the huge damage that has been inflicted now?

  

The Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) had already been predicting strong rainstorms around Pakistan before the floods and still is issuing statements that show the rains are expected to continue along the border areas of western Pakistan.

Now that the officials of the provincial government are reiterating about their involvement in the efforts to help the people but state that the deluge is hindering their completion, why hadn’t they formulated a programme for the prevention of flood damage before-hand?

 

The transport authorities should have prepared alternative routes for the people and the rescue teams to use in case of the areas which were bound to be affected and the transport system there to be washed away too.

Three years before, another flood had occurred, during the reign of President Musharraf and  the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) had revealed that of the 80,000 homes destroyed in the disaster, nearly 60,000 were in Balochistan alone, where some 15 districts were badly or severely affected and the loss was estimated at Rs.10 bn.

At that time, the Musharraf Government was censured and denounced for its listless reaction to the disaster and yet today, under a democratically-elected government: the people of Balochistan face the same stagnant situations that they had previously faced.

 

The response to flooding in the region hasn’t kept pace with the severity of the humanitarian emergency.

The Provincial Government should have devised a plan before Monsoon in coordination with the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and The Pakistan Meteorological Department to asses the nature of the rains, the threats they posed to the province and an aerial survey should have been conducted in search of higher areas in Balochistan where camps could have been established and the people could have been moved there with their belongings.

Now that the rains have swept the province, both the Provincial and Federal Government should work-out a project or course of action for the immediate rehabilitation of the people on an emergency basis with huge relief supplies of medicines, goods, blankets, tents, food and other facilities that the Balochis direly need.

Balochistan may make up 48% of the total land of Pakistan but its clustered population has the most surging feeling of deprivation and alienation whose roots aren’t a puzzle to trace considering the policy response to their pleas and predicaments which is nothing more than lip-service or cold and half-hearted efforts such as of today when the region has been shook by a crisis.

We must realize that that the sense of divestiture, virtual separation, disparity and deprivation that the Balochis have today and which many believe are being exploited by foreign elements, has been nurtured by our very own ignorance and misinterpretations of their dilemmas, needs and aspirations.

 

As Benazir Bhutto herself wrote in ‘Daughter of the East’ about East Pakistan:

“From revenues of more than thirty-one billion rupees from East Pakistan’s exports, the minority in West Pakistan had built roads, schools, universities and hospitals for themselves, but had developed little in the East. The army, the largest employer in our poor country, drew 90% of its forces from West Pakistan. 80% of the government jobs were filled by people from the West. No wonder they felt excluded and exploited.”

Although there are differences in Balochistan and East Pakistan, the last line of her writing fits perfectly into the picture of Balochistan today.

 

About 46% of the gas in our country is obtained from Sui in Balochistan. Majority of Pakistanis talk about developing the resources in Balochistan (Thar, Reko Diq etc) and letting the country benefit from them, but have we wondered or ever thought of developing Balochistan itself and equipping the Balochis educationally, politically and socially?

‘Aghaz-e-Huqooq-e-Balochistan’ is indeed a laudable step by the Government but it needs to be implemented. We need to grant them their basic rights and shun being lax in responding to their calls in times of help.

The population of Balochistan forms only 5% to 7% of Pakistan’s total population and it feasible enough to deliver its people the right to education, shelter and all other basic necessities that they rightfully deserve and the Government needs to prioritize the strive for removing the deep-seated feelings of resentment and making the Balochis realize that they are not children of a lesser God but as much vital for Pakistan’s future and as much part of the flesh and soul of this country as those in Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.”

– Hafsa Khawaja

Lets Keep DHA Green and Waste Electricity On A Routine?


Street-lights lit on during broad daylight : Captured By Me.

Recently while crossing into the DHA of Lahore, I noticed the street-lights were still lit as far as one’s eye could see even during broad-daylight.

Today we face a shortage of 4000 megawatts causing the load shedding of nine to seventeen hours. According to analysts energy projects being worked on will not able to fulfill
the nation’s energy needs even in 2011 to 2012. The Governor of EGAT (Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand) Vitaya Kotcharak Iin 2009 said the authority estimated that power supply requirements for local consumption at the end of 2016 would total 48,271 megawatts.

The government and the local people of DHA along with those of other areas where such practises of keeping lights on are a routine, should take this issue up with DHA itself.
This will never end until the local authorities start to keep the electricity crisis in consideration along with projects of keeping the area ‘green’ and we start contributing to saving energy on an individual basis.

It is said that little things result into making a huge difference and we can all help in making that difference.

– Hafsa Khawaja