Pall of gloom

On August 14, 1947, Pakistan got its independence from British colonial rule. Sixty-three years later, a moth-eaten Pakistan is struggling to fight all sorts of calamities, both man-made and natural disasters. The country has gone off in a completely different direction from the one envisioned by its founding father. Even in his wildest dreams, Quaid-e-Azam would not have envisaged how his country was on the verge of collapse.

It is the holy month of Ramadan, a month that is full of blessings for mankind. Alas, our fortunes are such that this blessed month has brought with it more doom and gloom. Unprecedented floods have unleashed their wrath on hapless Pakistanis. In view of the gravity of the catastrophe, all institutions of state called off the usual Independence Day celebrations, in other words, all the trappings of nationalism. A pall of gloom has descended on all of us what with one crisis after another hitting us with full force, the latest accretion to this tragic list being the floods.

According to UN estimates, more than 14 million people have been affected by these floods, of which six million are children “with some 2.7 million children in need of urgent, life-saving assistance”. As expected, the situation has gotten worse with the floods now having hit Sindh. Though the government, army, local people and international agencies are trying their best to carry out rescue operations, the effort does not match the task. The outbreak of diseases like diarrhoea is making the life of the flood-affected victims even more miserable. The worse is yet to come. The rescue and relief efforts are nowhere near matching the scale that is needed, with the aftermath of the floods now descending upon us. One would never have thought that in such a situation, some people would stoop so low as to start looting the houses left behind by the flood victims. Instead of rising to the occasion and helping the affectees, these ‘enterprising’ people have found an opportunity not to be missed. It is hoped that despite being overstretched, the law enforcing agencies would try their best to safeguard the property of the people who have had to flee their homes. It would be criminal if whatever is left of the flood affectees’ belongings are plundered like this. In the coming months, this crisis will play out sequentially and we would see a second wave of deaths amongst the flood victims due to disease. All this was already foreseen but we do not have the wherewithal to address this crisis, either domestically or internationally. We were already facing an economic crisis but now with the floods, an economic meltdown seems all but inevitable. Most crops, housing infrastructure and industry have been damaged beyond repair. The Sindh government has led the way by freezing its non-development budget except for salaries and will also curtail and reprioritise the development budget in order to effectively manage the cost of the relief and rehabilitation efforts. The other provinces should follow suit. International donors like the World Bank, the UN and some countries have also pledged to help Pakistan in this time of crisis but it is still not enough to meet the imminent cost. We have not faced such a big challenge in living memory, at least not since independence.

On our 64th independence day, did we take out a moment to reflect on our journey traversed in the past six decades? Jinnah envisioned a secular Pakistan but we have made it an almost theocratic state, which has come to be known as an ‘exporter of terrorism’. What sort of Pakistan do we want to leave behind for our future generations – a country they would loathe to be associated with or a country they would be proud of? It is not too late to change the destiny of our country. Let us join hands and vow to fight bigotry, religious intolerance, class differences and terrorism. We must also help our fellow countrymen in their hour of need.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

Comments

Anonymous said…
What an oppurtunity for pakistan. Now it can do what it is best at doing... begging. that too by claiming that if the west doesnt help then extremist elements win over the hearts of the Pakis... What hearts and what brains? Its funny how this thing gets everytime... It is as if the pakis blackmail the west by putting gun to their own head and threaten them to agree to terms else we pakis will blow ourselves. Boy, I must congratulate Pakistan for its never ending tricks.. Show a poor fellow pic and get aid but that aid never reaches that fellow, divert it to army coffers, create terrorism, ask money to fight the same terrorism.. looks like terrorism has become an ever booming and lucrative industry in Pakistan..

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