Of flood, duds and places in between

The newest saga in the ongoing tragedy which is the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is much better reported elsewhere, but within that reportage, a few things which stood out:

Burqas, chadors, hijabs and baggy shalwars aren’t conducive to survival in a flood or while wading through the aftermath of a mudslide.

The common citizen has spent his or her entire life with no help from the government, yet for some reason expect the government to morph into a all beneveloent government during crisis and behave effectively. There is tragedy all around, but so many people seem to be just waiting for someone else to do something. Which isn’t to bellittle the many heroes all around, but their seems to be a sense of entitlement which has no basis in reality or recent history.

The moving image is so much more powerful than print to convey the unfolding tragedy yet the majority of the talking heads, the editorial people and a bunch of others working for the TV media need to be fired, right away. Journalism isn’t entertainment, though it might entertain at times, and it certainly isn’t about vaccous half formed opinions. The print media, though not much better at least isn’t standing around mouths agape trying to cover up the silence within with a machine gun rapid fire of drivel.

So much of the sums promised as aid by the outside world are laughably trivial. Some is better than nothing, but not always.

There are a bunch of flood relief efforts underway, and while I applaud them, so much of how disaster relief is done in Pakistan is always bandaid oriented, while deeper structural problems aren’t addressed.

It’s an every person for himself mentality, as can be seen at every distribution point for food and aid. Considering cooperation between humans can move literal mountains, let alone small dams, it’s amazing how little collobration is going on between humans with all the free time in the world. Here I’m talking about the people sittting around waiting for aid, not those drowning or in the process of getting flooded as their survival instincts have presumably kicked in and preclude them from thinking about anything but the immediate.

So many educated, aware and well off people are drumming up food, medicine and money in the cities. That’s useful and much needed in the beginning of a disaster, but what happens next? Why do all the engineers, water specialists, communications gurus, teachers, pyschologists, doctors, everyone in the urban well off areas just rush of material goods but hold back whats really useful – their time and effort? It’s people who achieve things, not money or goods, and that’s something which doesn’t seem to even occur to so many as they sit around waiting for someone else to do something.

Pakistan as a state is defunct. All effective response is being done primarily by the Pakistan Army, with the US Army trailing far behind in their distance. In the middle, a who’s who’s of the world’s NGO’s are doing what they do. The Pakistan government is flailing around a lot and going on TV demanding to be appreciated but they don’t understand the concept of measurements, logistics and applying some yardsticks to what they’re accomplishing with the amount of resources they have.

The US Army has impressive looking helicopters, and they’ll gather a lot of positive goodiwill dropping food and water and picking up some people and dropping them to dry ground. Than they all fly away, and in the bigger picture doesn’t seem to do much good at all.

America’s policy towards Pakistan is fucked. How can a nation with such intelligent people be so wrong in a region in which they have so much invested? It’s no wonder that so many people in Pakistan attribute it to malice, and not just sheer incompetence, hubris and just lack of interest or incentive in the region to gather the political will to actually do someting right instead of appearing to do so.

What do these people in the refugee camps need – not just those from the ongoing flood, but the millions already misplaced from wars and poverty? Afghans started flooding into Pakistan in the millions back in the 80’s and up till now all they got was food and tents. Schools, vocational training, books – anything which could be remotively constructive or couldn’t be eaten wasn’t in the list of things to do. That birthed the Taliban, as the children of the refugee camps ended up in madrassahs, a story well known.

Today, much of Pakistan resembles a refugee camp, and once again about the only thing on the mind of the Pakistan government and it’s many allies is feeding their bodies. Once again, the only people stepping up to feed their minds is the madrassahs, funded by virtually limitless Saudi money (relative to Pakistani poverty) and the donations of millions of poor, well meaning Pakistani’s who donate to charities which often funnel that money to institutions mired in the past, even if they’re not preaching some form of militancy in the first place.

There is a lot more going on, but it’s hard to grasp – there are no journalists in Pakistan. There are a few good writers, editors, reporters – but not journalists. Source materials are withheld or ‘tweaked’ for political expediency.

India is a poor country, but it’s just a few miles from the flood yet they’re doing far less than other countries as poor and further away. Pakistan used to be part of India not so long ago, and it’s staggering how much recent enemity overrules humanity.

Everything which comes out from the apparatus of state, whether political or military reeks of a sense of inbred elitism and entitlement, which assumes to the core that they know not only whats best for the populace, but that they know far more than the populace or foreign donors will, or can ever comprehend, and thus gives them a license to build their own warped little mental models of the world, and twist and project whatever they feel will further their agenda, well being and survival, people and reality be damned.

There are people, in the upper echelons of Pakistani power rooting for the son of Benazir Bhutto to come and take over. That is sickening, gut wrenchingly sick – that this is where Pakistan has reached in the 21st century. There are yet other people who are rooting for this saviour to return during this time of need, as apparently only he can save the country. Perhaps these people are mistaking him for Jesus, or the Madhi, but it’s a stark reminder of the cult of personality which has taken over the minds and hearts of so many people in Pakistan.

The waters will recede, and life will go back to what it was. The real problem isn’t the flood, it’s the fact that life will return back to where it was before the floods, and that the entire effort of the country and it’s many ‘allies’ is directed to that end.

2 thoughts on “Of flood, duds and places in between”

  1. Hello … Need your help with coordination of the relief efforts. Sahana Foundation has developed a disaster management system, which was deployed successfully in Haiti earlier this year. It’s used to track disaster-affected areas and people and to follow relief efforts. They’ve customised the software for Pakistan and you can find it at:


    There will be a training session on how to use the software on Monday (tomorrow, Aug 16) at 4 p.m. at the IBA City Campus. Please spread the word and ask people to contribute whatever data they have, as well as to attend the training session. There will be another session on Tuesday at NED Karachi, which will be broadcasted live to Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar & Faisalabad.


  2. 1-man made disaster –when you don’t make dams to contain glacier water then water gotta go somewhere.


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