Lend Pakistan a helping hand

by Sana Saleem
17 August 2010
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Karachi, Pakistan - “It looks like the number of people affected in this [Pakistani flooding] crisis is higher than the Haiti earthquake, the tsunami or the [2005] Pakistan earthquake. And if the toll is as high as the one given by the [Pakistani] government, it’s higher than the three of them combined,” Maurizio Giuliano, spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, told the Associated Press.

For the past couple of weeks, I have been looking at images from the flood-affected areas: pictures of men and women carrying their children on their shoulders as they make their way in waist-deep water, carrying what little is left of their family and home with uncertainty. Then there are images of rescue helicopters dropping food items as a people vie to grab them for their families, fear, anger and uncertainty apparent on the faces of many. Over the years only faces have changed; from the internally displaced placed people of Swat Valley to the flood survivors from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the only constant is devastation.

“It would have been better if we had died in the floods as our current miserable life is much more painful,” said Ahmed, a man who fled with his family from the town of Shikarpur in Sindh province and spent the night shivering in the rain.

Undoubtedly, this appears to be the biggest disaster in the country’s history. Much has been said about the devastating condition of the flood victims. From sympathy towards the plea of the victims, to anger at the apathy of the Pakistani president, we have analysed the situation far too many times.

Last week, a BBC News report noted that over 14 million people may have been affected by the floods. In one of the following sentences, however, the report claimed that charities connected to a group with alleged Al Qaeda links has been providing victims of the flood with relief. This is not the only report of its kind; most of the coverage by the Western media emphasised the “Taliban angle” while covering the floods.

I understand that the grievances of the unattended victims are at risk of being exploited, but should that be our sole reason for helping them?

Rather than criticising what is happening and why that is so, we should focus on pressuring the Pakistani government to ensure better disaster management policies. After all, it is the lack of an apt disaster response that leaves no option other than to rely on independent relief organisations for assistance. The state has had plenty of opportunities in the past to learn from its mistakes and to develop a better disaster management policy. But it appears that this has clearly not been its top priority.

This apathy has created a void between the authorities and the Pakistani people, with most of us opting to trust independent relief organisations rather than the president. If some of these relief organisations have links to terror groups, it is due to the failure of the government to fulfil their responsibilities.

The people of Swat and the adjoining areas have already suffered enough at the hands of the Taliban. This war has cost them their life and properties. And if that wasn’t enough, they have been hit by the worst floods in 80 years. The world should help them not because of insecurity and fear, but on the basis of humanity.

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* Sana Saleem is Features Editor at BEE Magazine and blogs at Global Voices, Asian Correspondent and her personal blog Mystified Justice. This article is distributed by the Common Ground News Service (CGNews) with permission from Dawnblog.com.

Source: DawnBlog.com, 8 August 2010, www.dawnblog.com
Copyright permission is granted for publication.
 
 
 
 
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