August 16, 2010

The Art of Decadence

Waiting for some, any, sort of help.
It appears as if the heavens are now slowly starting to move in Western capitals, particularly London and Washington (London where the UK's National Security Council met to define it's course of action vis-a-vis the Pakistan flood disaster, and Washington, which has already sent 1000 Marines and many helicopters to help us in our time of crisis). On the other hand, the response of the Pakistani government appears drab at best. So far, there has been only one emergency cabinet meeting convened (Aug 4) and since then, it has been every man, woman and child in the government for himself. This is particularly evident because many rich politicians and MNAs have had to bring in their own supplies to save the people of their constituencies. Therefore I feel the generalized MNA/MPA, politician bashing needs to be given a break, because as it turns out, we do have a small number of politicians with souls in their bodies.

The problem however remains that the Government of Pakistan has shown remarkable ineptness at dealing with this crisis. Not only that, but it has failed to draw up a consensual policy with all the stakeholders on board with regards to the response to this predicament. The Prime Minister was more interested, in the initial days, to be photographed in the flood hit areas so that people could see that he was also doing something (boat riding) and the Sharifs weren't the only ones who were catering to the people's problems. Then there is the fact that no directions and directives have been issued by the PM secretariat to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) as to how to ensure the coordination between the different wings of the government. In many instances, the government has failed to even reach the stranded people even now, nearly two weeks after the floods raged downwards.

To top it all up, the Chairman NDMA refused to acknowledge that his job was to manage the disasters, rather in his own words, the government cannot reach everywhere and his organization's job is coordination only. Even if we were to accept this inane argument, the logical question that follows is: Do you even have a heart Mr. Nadeem Ahmed?

Various Non-Profit organizations, and particularly youth organizations have come to the fore in aiding the helpless and needy and their effort needs to be commended. However, unless a unified approach to the disaster is made at the government level, inclusive of all those willing to help, the response will not measure up to the full magnitude of the disaster.

What is perhaps most surprising, and illuminating at the same time, is the fact that the Prime Minister felt compelled to accept the formula that Nawaz Sharif presented to him to deal with the calamities. What was even more surprising is the fact the government did not have any ministrations regarding the formula presented by Mr Sharif. But if you think it through, the government really did not have any other option. For one, it turned out to be absolutely overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the disaster and two, the government appears incapable of handling the fiasco. Therefore it had to accept Nawaz Sharif's suggestions to show that it was doing something at least.

In the absence of the government in major relief activities, radical organizations have stepped to the fore and are busy in distributing aid on a wide scale amongst the flood affectees. This gesture of kindness on the part of organizations with known militant links and ties has the propensity to once again rekindle the dying flame of public support for these organizations. The Al-Khidmat Foundation which is the humanitarian wing of Jamaat-e-Islami, which is known to have a soft spot for the Taliban, and the Jamaat-ud-Dawa which has known links to the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba are amongst the forerunners in the relief operations in Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa,  and if the reports are anything to go by, the re-routing of relief goods destined for Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa to Multan by the NDMA, we are just letting the forces that we spent ages trying to get rid of, take over the very land that we were trying to cleanse of them.

The cries of help will soon become muffled and people will get on with their normal routines if not already. However, the people who lost not only property but also loved ones will never be able to get back their old life back. Something that we just don't care about not having been affected by the floods.