Prompt response needed

More than 20 million people have been affected in one of the worst floods to have hit Pakistan. It took some time before the international community woke up to the magnitude of the disaster. International aid is now pouring in, though still not as much as is needed. At a time like this, it is pertinent that the people of Pakistan stand by each other and help those who have been affected by the floods. It was in this backdrop that Prime Minister Gilani agreed to PML-N chief Mian Nawaz’s proposal to “set up an independent commission, comprising impartial, non-controversial and principled individuals” to raise funds for the rehabilitation of the flood victims. But it seems that there are some technical problems due to which this commission cannot be set up. Prime Minister Gilani said that the “provinces did not agree to the centralisation of funds so the proposal of Nawaz Sharif regarding the formation of an independent commission is not applicable”. The provinces did not agree to contribute 30 percent of their Annual Development Programmes’ budget to the commission as had been proposed. The prime minister has now announced to form a 10-member council instead of the proposed commission and has asked the provinces to propose some names. This council will be headed by a civil society member.

Now all this is good but the government and all political parties have to realise that the situation demands a prompt response. The proposed statutory body is a good idea but to make it credible, all stakeholders must be taken into confidence and the members of this council should be nominated after a consensus. It should be done on a war-footing given the crisis at hand. The flood victims have not only lost their homes, they have lost their lifesavings. It is the responsibility of the state and the entire nation to come forth and help them restore their lives. Since the number of displaced people is unprecedented, it is hoped that the citizens would open up their houses and hearts for their fellow countrymen in this hour of need. What is reassuring is the spirit of the people of Pakistan. Despite the daunting task at hand, the nation has not lost hope. Every individual is trying to do his or her part in these trying times; every single penny counts! We also have to realise that this crisis will not end after the floods have subsided. More people are expected to die from the ensuing wave of epidemics that have broken out in the aftermath of the floods and in the forthcoming months there is a greater risk to their lives. There are reports that in some places, the prices of medicines have shot up because of their demand. This practice must stop. This is not the time to make profits, this is the time to come forward and help our brethren regardless of their religion, race and creed. In the coming months, there will be a shortage of food items as well. The government must ensure that the hoarder mafia does not exploit the grave situation.

The aid coming in from both the local and the international community must be spent transparently and reach the deserving people. Charges of corruption may have slowed down the pace of aid, but we must rise to the occasion and show the world that this time around, the money will be spent in an honest manner. The proposed council should become functional soon and ensure transparent aid distribution.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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